Imperial College London

Puddle-free pavements and rethinking plastic: News from the College

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An ipad with the words "We give dyes and fibres a second chance" sits on a table with blue red yellow and orange bits of fabric.

Credit: Tim Oscroft

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From innovations that improve drainage after urban heavy rainfalls, to projects that tackle plastic pollution, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Puddle-free pavements

Two Imperial projects are among 20 finalists receiving a share of £4 million

The puddle free pavement design is on the floor with buildings in the background
Credit: Alalea Kia

in funding from OFWAT’s water discovery challenge. The funding is going towards product innovations that address drainage problems in the urban environment following heavy rainfall.    

Among the finalists is Kiacrete, developed by Dr Alalea Kia and her team in the Resilient Sustainable Infrastructure Group at Imperial’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Described as a ‘puddle-free pavement’, Kiacrete is a next-generation permeable pavement that uses a bespoke drainage structure to efficiently drain stormwater through an otherwise impermeable surface. Its use could lead to significant environmental improvements, reduced risk of sewage overflows, a more resilient and sustainable water sector, and lower customer bills. Kiacrete will increase cities’ resilience to heavy flooding, improving conditions for adjacent industries including transport and other utilities, and ultimately future-proofing our urban areas by turning them into water-smart cities. 

Rethinking plastic

A ipad is on a stall, with fabric beneath it. On the screen are the words "We give plastic a second chance."
The dye project. Credit: Tim Oscroft

Imperial has received part of a £6m package from UKRI to fund five ambitious new projects to help to deliver a step change in the sustainability of plastics. 

Dr Agnieszka Brandt-Talbot, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, is leading a project to improve recycling of multilayer packaging. Typically made from plastic, paper and aluminium bonded together, multilayer packaging delivers excellent product protection and preservation. Lack of suitable recycling technology, however, means its benefits come at a big environmental price. 

In collaboration with King's College London and retail, recycling and packaging partners, the team will pursue a fresh strategy: integrating mechanical recycling methods with chemical and biochemical techniques (to dissolve glue and metals, for instance). This approach could have rich potential for extension to other waste streams too.    

Imperial researchers are also involved in a project led by the University of Huddersfield to tackle plastic in clothing. A major problem stems from plastic’s incorporation into textiles alongside natural fibres. Separating it out again from these is hugely challenging, with over 80% of the plastic used in the textiles industry not currently recycled. 

With key input from academic and industrial partners, the project will adapt two innovative processes to the recovery of polyester and cellulose from mixed cotton/polyester fibres. It will also demonstrate how they can be re-spun into fibres for new textile products. 

Read more from the UKRI

Steel the show

Dr Fiona Walport stands infront of a wall, smiling
Credit: Dr Fiona Walport

Dr Fiona Walport, STEM ambassador and Research Fellow at Imperial’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has won £3,000 in the Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year competition, which celebrates early-career engineers who have made incredible contributions to their field. 

This was awarded to Dr Walport for her accurate and efficient advanced structural design framework that allows structural engineers to use high performing, but expensive materials like stainless steel more efficiently. Elements from her research have been incorporated into major European and American stainless steel design standards. 

On receiving the award, Dr Walport said: “It’s a great honour to be awarded the recognition of a Young Engineer of the Year. I’m very grateful to the Academy, as well as to my nominators and colleagues for their continuous support and hope I can use this platform to inspire others to pursue a fulfilling and impactful career in engineering.”   

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Bryony Ravate

Bryony Ravate
Communications Division

Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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