angle-left The Construction Doctor
INNOVATION

The Construction Doctor

Carmen Andrade has dedicated her entire life to researching the materials with which we build our world. She is an expert on the strength and durability of concrete and the corrosion of steel.

Sacyr was fortunate enough to collaborate with her in building the Third Set of Locks in the Panama Canal between 2012 and 2017. She contributed to the development of a durable concrete for this infrastructure.

Andrade is a tireless mind at the service of science. “Your mind doesn’t let you stop; you’re always asking yourself questions. In fact, I’m continuously called to solve problems. I dedicate my knowledge to the service of society; knowledge that I've gained through my own personal effort, but that is also the fruit of the investment of public funds in science,” she explains.

Carmen Andrade is retired, but only in theory, not in practice. She is a visiting professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in the International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE) and is also a Scientific Advisor at CIME, Research Center of the School of Civil Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

As Andrade explains, being a woman has been beneficial for her. “Many times, we’re the ones who put up the glass ceiling. In my case, being a woman in the field of science has been an advantage, because there are very few of us, so people listen to you more in a man’s world. I have always been the center of attention,” she explains.

One could say that Carmen studies the diseases of a building and prescribes preventive methods to preserve its health and structural materials. Through electrical resistivity, she measures the durability of concrete. “You take its temperature, like a doctor. Measuring resistivity with a resistivity meter is a non-destructive method.” In addition, Carmen Andrade has not only created sensors that, when embedded in concrete, measure the corrosion of the steel within, but she also has the knowledge to improve the material.

“Concrete is known to last thousands of years. We have Roman concrete. But steel is what corrodes. Mass concrete can last 2000 years, but steel-reinforced concrete lasts less than 100 years. This type of concrete began to be used at the beginning of the 20th century. I’m working to make new concretes last more than 100 years. Some colleagues and I have developed a corrosion rate meter to measure the corrosion of the reinforcement. Its principles are being applied in El Cabril (Cordoba), in the radioactive waste disposal facility, and in other private buildings. The CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) patent awarded to Geocisa has been licensed to the American company James Instruments and sold worldwide,” she explains.

This corrosion rate meter for in situ measurement is still considered the benchmark worldwide. The CSIC selected it from among the 20 most important inventions in its history, and was included in the launch of the Government of Spain’s Ingenio 2010 Program to promote research, development and innovation.

One of her main concerns is that her discoveries have a practical application. In fact, she has been honored throughout her life partly because of this: an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Trondheim and the University of Alicante, the Manuel Rocha Award in Civil Engineering from the Presidency of Portugal, the W.R. Whitney Award, etc. “When I received my first international award (the RILEM Award in 1986), I was told that this meant I was not allowed to make a mistake for the rest of my life,” she remarks.

In her opinion, the construction sector is under-appreciated. “The construction industry has tremendous added value. It is constantly innovating. But today, only the inexpensive, the aesthetics and the price are valued, not the innovation that comes with it.  We need to be able to convey the value that these innovations bring to our lives. In addition, we have to make constructions more durable in terms of sustainability; this is more important than appearance,” she explains. 

 

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