Summary

This project will develop innovative synthetic, high-friction aggregates in the 1-3 mm range, produced using geopolymer and alkali activated cementitious technologies based on locally available waste streams. Engineered to yield high performance levels of requisite mechanical properties such as strength, toughness and abrasion resistance, these synthetic aggregates will offer significant economic and environmental advantages over existing products on the market.

Project significance

High friction surfaces provide high-contact pressure between pavement/tyre interfaces and hydraulic conductivity (drainage), thereby significantly reducing braking distances and aquaplaning risks.

Applying high friction aggregates to the surface of critical road sections is an established technology proven to save lives. In the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reported that, based on 34 road schemes, high friction surfacing reduced accidents by 57%. Similarly, the US National Cooperative Highway Research Program reports 20% reduction rates for crashes at treated intersections. High friction aggregate surfacing is an established industry worldwide and is fully adopted by national regulatory bodies and supported by associated related trade bodies and professional organisations.

Currently available solution

The material used almost exclusively worldwide for high friction surfacing is calcined bauxite; a quarried natural material requiring high temperature (1650oC) pre-processing (calcining). As commercial sources of calcined bauxite are limited to China, Guyan and India, it is an expensive import. As such, identifying alternative materials is an ongoing focus of research activities worldwide. Whilst natural aggregates such as flint, basalt and granite have been evaluated, they do outperform calcined bauxite and are restricted to less demanding, non-high friction, environments. The market for high friction road surfacing materials is international, with the majority of local and national road authorities specifying its use across the Europe and the US.

Furthermore, based on proof-of-concept of this technology, future scope exists for application of geopolymer cement-based solutions in related field such as road markings and coloured demarcation zones. Ulster University’s highways engineering research team is uniquely placed to undertake this project as it offers requisite accelerated road testing apparatus not available at any other institution across Europe, a 50-year database of test data relating to industry-led research into high friction surfaces from which to benchmark and an established track-record of research into innovative road construction materials and processes.

Technological advancement proposed

*The products developed from this research will be the world’s first artificial high friction road surfacing aggregate solution, capable of yielding a range of performance levels and colours;

*The fundamental technological advancement proposed by this project is the move away from using scarce natural aggregates, to a highly engineered artificial product capable of being manufactured locally/regionally as required to deliver a range of performance levels;

*The geopolymer and alkali-activated cement mortars developed will comprise bespoke material combinations to create resilient and low porosity binder systems with carefully selected fine aggregates.

As with all high friction aggregates, the product developed will be bonded to road surfaces using compatible, commercially available resin binders.

Competitive advantages through innovation.

An ability to

*produce high friction aggregates locally/regionally as required, with optimised performance levels and aesthetics via material proportioning adjustments;

*market sustainable products manufactured locally using low impact materials and industrial by-products;

*minimise costs associated with transporting bulk goods internationally and contribute positively to local economies


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies



The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Philip Bradley

I had an interesting time at Ulster University, Jordanstown. Many thanks to all the lecturers, library staff and research school for their time and effort getting me through my PhD!

Philip Bradley - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Mengmeng Dou

My proudest moment was when I was accepted to pursue my PhD in Ulster University. My favourite memory was how I met my group of friends who also pursue their dreams in this foreign country. I'll never forget the tough times I underwent during my study, but thanks to those times that I finally managed to lose weight. I couldn't have got through this without my supervisors' support, kind encouragement and firmest trust. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be - do not procrastinate, you gotta learn to move forward in life when you feel stuck.

Mengmeng Dou - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Khoa Xuan Le

I came to Ulster University to challenge myself with a PhD study under Vice-Chancellor's Research Studentship at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning. My supervisors helped me much from giving valuable guidance to supporting any difficulties, which makes me feel that I am the luckiest student.I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors, family, friends and colleagues for supporting me tirelessly. Without you, I couldn't have got through my PhD with some great achievements:Best PhD Research Paper in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning, Ulster UniversityBest Student Paper Award at the conference of World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2017, San Francisco, USA.Student Registration Grant for demonstrating academic excellence in research at 17th International Conference on Sustainable Technologies (SET 2018), China.

Khoa Xuan Le - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Joe Frey

I worked for 35 years for the Housing Executive - latterly as its Head of Research. I had completed an MSc in Urban Policy in the 2000s - and it had been a longstanding ambition of mine to complete a PhD that brought together a number of strands of policy-related research that had been of particular interest to me. Undertaking a PhD at Ulster University allowed me to fulfil this ambition in an enjoyable manner.Completing my PhD has brought me an immense amount of personal satisfaction. A major part of this was down to the incredible support I received from my two supervisors Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr Michael McCord. Their ongoing advice, encouragement and support helped take me outside my comfort zone and played a major part in my achievement. Even my viva proved to be an enjoyable experience and enabled me to feel that I had gained a level of expertise in a sphere that could make a small but significant contribution to addressing some of the key housing issues facing policy

Joe Frey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Ohk Kun Lim

I am a senior researcher at Korea Fire Institute which is a state-owned company specialised at fire safety engineering in the Republic of Korea. I obtained BSc and MSc in mechanical engineering. Prior to enter a PhD course at the School of the Built Environment in Ulster University, I worked for over a decade in the engineering industry. With relation to my PhD topic, my current research field is on fire safety using experimental and numerical approaches.Finally, I finished my study in Ulster University and became a Doctor of Philosophy in a field of fire safety!! There were a lot of good memories at Ulster University. I will never forget the rainbow on the Jordanstown campus which helps me to relieve my stress caused by stuck in concrete damaged plasticity theory. I felt great when receiving an annual PhD conference award as the best poster. I was excited to spent time with my officemates, Rumeel, and Emmanuel. I love every moment at Room 4B01 because it was a time to enhance my

Ohk Kun Lim - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Benjamin Fumey

I am a Swiss citizen, grew up in Papua New Guinea and graduated from Ukarumpa International Schools. I was trained and certified as a Swiss cabinetmaker and hold a Swiss diploma in electrical engineering from the Bern University of applied Science. In the past ten years I have been employed at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and have performed research in the field of energy conversion and storage. Research activities include; Alkali water electrolysis, metal hydride hydrogen storage, PEM fuel cell and stack development, catalytic oxidation of hydrogen for high temperature heat (cooking), energy systems for autarky living and liquid sorption heat storage. I lead the subtask Components and Systems of the IEA, SHC Program, Task 58 ‘Material and Component Development for Thermal Energy Storage’ and have performed a part time external PhD at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment in the development of a heat and mass

Benjamin Fumey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Profile picture of Owen Hawe

I studied my Integrated Masters (MSci) at Jordanstown from 2008-2012. After a few years working as an Estate Agent, I went back to academia to complete my PhD, looking at the broad area of health within the field of planning.Many PhDs are given a topic to begin with, however when I applied for the PhD scholarship I had to create my own research topic. This took me a while to establish, but eventually my hard work paid off and I narrowed my research into an area I am truly proud of - Active living, how the built environment can influence physical activity and how this was interpreted in the domains listed in my thesis title. My favourite aspect of the PhD was presenting my research and getting the acknowledgment from other academics that my research was interesting, robust and well thought out. I submitted an abstract to AESOP, an annual planning conference, and was given the opportunity to present my work in Venice. I also presented my work to the president of RTPI. There is nothing

Owen Hawe - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning