Project facts

Duration: 2013-11 - 2015-10
Project coordinator: University of Bologna; ITALY
Project consortium: University of Bologna, ITALY Ghent university; BELGIUM University of Amsterdam; NETHERLANDS San Marco Terreal; ITALY
Funding bodies: JPI CH
Subject areas: Built Heritage, Climate Change, Conservation, Ecology, History, Materials, Methods - Procedures, Monuments - Sites, Preventive conservation, Tangible Heritage, Technologies - Scientific processes, Urban Heritage
Budget: 420,525 €


The objective of the project was to develop an integrated approach for modeling and analyzing the decay mechanism of masonry structures (made by fired clay or natural stone brick) due to salt crystallization.

The idea was to combine, at the (sub)micro-scale, theoretical, numerical and experimental studies to model the interaction between crystallization and deformation/damage of the masonry porous material and, then, to pass this information at the macro-scale, in order to develop effective predictive tools useful from the engineering point of view.

A greater understanding of crystallization processes has been achieved and used to predict damage behaviour.

The highly advanced tools employed in the project were the high resolution X-ray computed tomography, micro experiments on salt nucleation and growth in confined geometries and designed porous network, and micro-macro FE numerical modelling.

Impacts & Results

The results have elucidated why the same salt can cause damage in some conditions and not in others.

The project has allowed the quantification of the internal changes in 3D at a porescale level.

The use of these observations have created new models and have provided instant feedback towards these models.

The project has allowed the prediction of the macroscopical effects, based on the microscopical observed phenomena and processes.

The project has had a great transnational impact, since masonry structures are present all over the world. Moreover, the proposed integrated approach has been made in a way to be extended to other natural stones and bricks and to other deterioration phenomena.

This research has developed and implemented highly advanced research techniques and models which have enabled us to reveal the relationship between porescale features and macroscopical effects.

The coupling of microscopic and macroscopic studies, both experimentally and theoretically, has allowed achieving a better understanding of the formation and decomposition mechanisms of salt crystals in porous materials and of the related damage at the micro-scale. It has also developed predictive tools of the masonry behaviour (including damage prediction) at the macro-scale.

These fundamental insights have been of great benefit for a better choice of damage prevention methods in civil engineering and conservation, also in view of the global climate change and pollution that render the environmental action more and more aggressive.


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