ECOMAT LIA: Ifsttar and the Université de Sherbrooke join forces for sustainable construction

Founded in 2016 by the Université de Sherbrooke (Québec) and IFSTTAR, the ECOMAT International Associative Laboratory (LIA) brings together some forty researchers to work on developing ecomaterials for infrastructure and buildings. Arezki Tagnit-Hamou, the head of the LIA and professor at the Université de Sherbrooke, gave some details during his visit to Nantes for the laboratory's 4th symposium.

"Working on ecomaterials by using a multi-scale approach, that ranges from the molecular to the structural level". The head of the cement and concrete research group at the Université de Sherbrooke, Arezki Tagnit-Hamou thus summarises the work carried out by ECOMAT (Ecomaterials for Infrastructure and Building) which he co-directs with IFSTARR’s Loïc Divet (head of the CPDM). Created in 2016, this virtual laboratory  held  its 4th symposium on June 27 2019 at the IFSTTAR  site in Nantes. These meetings take place annually and are organised by each of the two countries in turn. This year’s brought together the forty or so Canadian and French researchers and their students who are involved in ECOMAT in order to develop new sustainable, high-performance, materials with a low environmental impact. Researchers from other institutions and industry were also invited.

ECOMAT’s members are experts in the fields of eco-efficient concrete, biosourced materials and the design and testing of structures. They are running 10 research projects and are particularly interested in the recycling of industrial by-products and the exploitation of local materials, the reduction of the environmental footprint of the manufacture of construction materials, the use of vegetable fibres, the durability of power transmission cables, ultra-high-performance fibre-reinforced concrete with glass powder, etc. "Our aim is to develop ecomaterials that are more sustainable and that perform at least as well as traditional ones, and also to ensure that transfer to industrial construction products or application in techniques takes place rapidly," Arezki Tagnit-Hamou explains.  What are the challenges to be met? "In particular, improving the early age properties of binders, i.e. materials whose mechanical performance develops more rapidly, finding high performance formulations (better combinations of composites, optimum proportioning, etc.) or improving the durability of bio-sourced materials and the acceptance of all these materials by the construction industry".

"Research and industry are evolving very rapidly and mobilise a wide range of expertise. It is necessary to pool the facilities and skills of researchers, asserts the head of ECOMAT." In the case of this LIA, IFSTTAR brings, for example, its expertise in the modelling and physical chemistry of organic and mineral materials, and the Université de Sherbrooke its expertise in microstructure, mechanical properties and scale-up through the development of demonstrators." Each of the  LIA’s projects is based on at least one Franco-Canadian pairing working with a co-supervised doctoral student. "These students gain knowledge at the interface between Canadian and French expertise," Arezki Tagnit-Hamou. "It is very instructive because our doctoral students ares also in contact with the industrial world thanks to our partnerships with manufacturers, entrepreneurs and infrastructure managers. They also obtain a double degree that is recognised in both North America and Europe".