James de Burgh
The behaviour of concrete under extremes such as heat and fire is complex and fascinating. That’s the reason I chose to study this phenomenon for my PhD at UNSW Australia.
It was the logical move to come across the country, from Perth to Sydney, to study at the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering because of its great reputation and the highly respected academics here. The deciding factor though was being able to study under the supervision of Professor Stephen Foster, who is very well respected both in Australia and overseas.
Fire induced spalling of concrete structures involves a complex combination of moisture and gas transfer, heat transfer along with mechanical effects and damage. In both research and practice, understanding and predicting fire spalling continues to be a major hurdle.
My research aims to solve this persistent challenge through studying and modelling the processes leading to spalling. Through my research, I have had the opportunity to learn about multi-physics and multi-scale analyses. Research can lead you in many directions.
The interaction of concrete materials with moisture is very complex, and still not completely understood at a detailed level. As a result, I’ve had to undertake experimental and numerical studies on hardened cement paste microstructure and moisture transfer processes, both of which are very important in the developing field of concrete multi-scale modelling. I even had to program my own hydro-thermo-mechanical finite element code – which has been a challenging but very interesting experience.
Another great thing about studying at UNSW is that I have met other PhD students from a very broad range of backgrounds and cultures. I’ve made some great friends and experienced different ways of looking at the world.
James has recently finished his PhD.