Wenhui Duan: Opening windows and manipulating in the nano-world within construction materials – leading to high performance infrastructure

The saying goes that from little things, big things grow, and Professor Wenhui Duan’s work is living proof of that.

As Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, much of Wenhui’s research is focused on nanomechanics and smart materials, particularly concerning performance and durability of concrete, which we use to build everything from office blocks to bridges. How to open windows in the nano-world within construction materials and manipulating its elements? “We’ve found that nanomaterials can potentially improve the performance of concrete. So I’ve been working to find solutions that can do just that. On a more fundamental level, I’m looking at the nanoscale aspect of concrete materials and the characterization – where we combine the physical and the chemical effects together.”

The ARC Nanocomm Hub

Wenhui’s initial research drew significant attention from the industry, and he used this as a platform to establish the ARC Nanocomm Hub at the Monash Clayton campus. Here, work is underway to develop novel construction materials including binders, cement additives, high performance concrete materials, polymer composites and pavement materials.

“From my perspective, I’ve been very fortunate to start my career at Monash. I think a really unique feature of the university is that they’re always encouraging collaboration. So right now I’m working with material engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers and so on – and that collaboration adds real value to my research” Wenhui remarks.

Stronger together

It’s taken enormous support to get the Nanocomm Hub up and running, thanks to significant funding from the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) scheme, not to mention the backing from Monash.

“Monash assisted me in several ways. The first was the pre-proposal stage – where I had very strong support from both department and faculty levels. I was offered funding for travel and industry engagement”

“I was also awarded a very generous scholarship which really demonstrated how supportive the university was of the proposal. The team at the Monash Research Office also did a fantastic job helping me to prepare the submission – organising all the extensive paperwork and getting that off the ground.”

The ARC Nanocomm Hub is driving advances in nanotechnology, cement chemistry, concrete technology and other next generation construction technologies focusing on industry partnership and technology translation.  With twelve universities now involved, Wenhui’s research continues to make waves at an international level.

See Wenhui’s profile