I have been doing photography since I was nine. I love it because it’s a combination of imagination, mathematics, and science. The soul of photography is light, constantly moving and changing. Exploring how to use light makes me watch, think, and practice. It’s my natural lab.
Good use of light is not enough, however. Photography is about composition and mathematics, with its golden ratio and the rule of thirds derived from our perception of beauty.
Thus photography has given me a new lens onto life, a mindset of being prepared to get inspiration from nature then abstracting it into engineered designs with mathematical tools.
That’s when my scientific research and love for photography ceased to be two separate realms.
I am now an engineer and entrepreneur designing intelligent self-healing structures, inspired by nature.
National sustainability & the durability challenge
How long do you think the cement buildings we live in will serve us?
The answer is ideally 80 years. But in reality, cracks appear even on new buildings. This is because infrastructure, such as roads and skyscrapers, all crack no matter how carefully they are being restored or reinforced because of bearing heavy loads and intense environments.
So, what do we normally do? Simple, we send people to fill the cracks. But we will soon need to fix the crack again, in about five years. Most of the damaged cement structures will end up being replaced and reconstructed. This is a huge problem because activities related to repairing and replacing concrete accounts for 35% of the global carbon emissions, according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body.
There’s also the huge financial cost. Around 40-50% of the construction budget in the UK is spent on maintaining and replacing damaged buildings, which amounts to around £40 billion per year.
So how can we solve this problem? If concrete cracking is unavoidable, can we make it able to heal itself when damage appears? Our solution is to build a self-healing system in the concrete, so when a crack appears, the concrete can heal itself the same way that our skin or our body does. Imagine concrete has blood vessels, and these vessels are able to react to the cracks smartly and heal them automatically. We are embracing 3D printing technology to make this happen.
By mimicking the human self-healing system, our ground-breaking innovation promises to reduce the cost of concrete production and maintenance. It also offers a new way of reusing plastic waste. We can monitor the structure when needed and extend the general lifespan of concrete buildings for more than 50 years.
Our self-healing structure is designed for intelligent concrete, one that is inspired by nature.
From researcher to founder
While doing my PhD in the Cambridge Infrastructure Resilience Group, an interdisciplinary research network, I had the chance to talk with researchers and industry partners to assess our invention and what technology the market needs. The feedback I received made me very confident that this self-healing technology could be a game-changer for the next-generation infrastructure. So I started to shift my focus towards building my venture.
In late 2019, we founded our venture to translate the invention into an innovation. My habit of exploring art in nature and my knowledge of composition from photography inspired our design and branding. After several great opportunities and a year of concrete effort, our venture survived and MimiCrete Ltd was born in June.
Through this venture, our hope is to create together an ecologically sustainable future for our next generation.
Jamy-Lee Bam, Data Scientist, Cape Town
Paarmita Pandey, Physics Masters student, India
Nesibe Feyza Dogan, Highschool student, Netherlands
Una, writer and educator
Radu Toma, Romania
Financier and CEO, USA
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