Researcher

Associate Professor Wengui Li

My Expertise

Scientia Associate Professor Wengui Li is the recipient of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow (Level 2) in 2022 and a former ARC DECRA Fellow. His research interests include intelligent/smart concrete (e.g., self-sensing, self-healing, energy storage, and hydrophobicity), sustainable construction materials (e.g., recycled aggregate concrete and carbon-neutral concrete), and concrete nanotechnology.

Keywords

Fields of Research (FoR)

Construction Materials, Structural Engineering

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Biography

ARC Future Fellow, Scientia Associate Professor in Construction Materials and Structural Engineering

Wengui Li is a Scientia Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) in Australia. He has earned international recognition for his pioneering research in the fields of intelligent/smart concrete and sustainable construction materials. Wengui received his Joint...view more

ARC Future Fellow, Scientia Associate Professor in Construction Materials and Structural Engineering

Wengui Li is a Scientia Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) in Australia. He has earned international recognition for his pioneering research in the fields of intelligent/smart concrete and sustainable construction materials. Wengui received his Joint Doctoral Degree from Tongji University and Northwestern University in 2013. From 2010 to 2013, he studied as a Predoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Advanced Cement-Based Materials (ACBM) at Northwestern University, USA.

With his expertise in connecting material properties of concrete to structural responses at multiple scales, ranging from the nano to structural levels, Wengui has established the "Intelligent Concrete and Infrastructure Materials" (ICIM) research group in the Centre for Infrastructure Engineering and Safety (CIES) at UNSW. The group focuses on developing new functionalities and nanotechnology for concrete to enhance its properties, making it smarter and more sustainable for future infrastructure. Through his extensive experience collaborating with leading experts from universities and industries worldwide, including Australia, USA, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Singapore, China and Japan. Wengui is an International Excellence Fellow at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.

Wengui’s research interests are centered on multifunctional concrete and low-carbon construction materials, with a particular focus on smart concrete (e.g., self-sensing, self-healing, hydrophobicity, photocatalysis, energy-saving), recycled aggregate concrete materials and structures, solid waste recovery for construction materials, low-carbon concrete, and CO2 mineralized concrete, concrete nanotechnology (e.g., nanomodification, nanocharacterization), concrete durability (e.g., chloride transport, reinforcement corrosion), seawater-sea sand concrete materials and structures, fire resistance of concrete, and pavement materials and technology.

Wengui has an impressive track record in securing research funding from various sources, including the Australian Research Council (ARC), public government, and industry schemes. He was awarded the ARC Future Fellow Project (one of only two in FoR: 4005 – Civil Engineering) in 2023, an ARC DECRA Project in 2015, two ARC Discovery Projects, one ARC Linkage Project, two ARC ITR Hub Component Projects, and two ARC LIEF Projects. He also received an Innovation Connections grant from the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science.

Wengui has a prolific publication record with over 200 refereed journal papers published in Scopus, generating over 10,000 citations, and earning him an h-index of 54. In Google Scholar, he has over 12,200 citations and an h-index of 56. Notably, his work has been highly cited, with seven Highly Cited Papers recognized by Clarivate (Web of Science). He also has an impressive track record as an editor, committee member, and conference organizer. For example, he serves as an editor (associate) or editorial board member for 7 international journals, including Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier), Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering (ASCE), Case Studies in Construction Materials (Elsevier), and Sustainable Materials and Technologies (Elsevier).


My Grants

Wengui has gained research funding from ARC scheme, public government, industry partners, and other international funding sources.

(1) "Robust cement-based sensors for smart automation in future infrastructure", funded by Australia Research Council Future Fellowship Grant (FT220100177), 2023-2028. (Sole Chief Investigator, $919,584 AUD)

(2) "Novel hydrophobic concrete for durable and resilient mining infrastructure", funded by Australia Research Council Linkage Project (LP230100288), 2024-2027. (First Chief Investigator, $458,910 AUD)

(3) "Self-healing concrete for mitigation of chloride induced steel corrosion", funded by Australia Research Council Discovery Project (DP220101051), 2022-2024. (Second Chief Investigator, $220,000 AUD)

(4) "Maximising the use of waste glass in sustainable composite columns", funded by Australia Research Council Discovery Project (DP220100036), 2022-2024. (Second Chief Investigator, $416,000 AUD)

(5) "Nanofiller reinforced concrete for high performance thermal energy storage", funded by Australia Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Grant (DE150101751), 2015-2018. (Sole Chief Investigator, $351,000 AUD

(6) "Deterioration of recycled concrete under coupled loading and aggressive environmental actions", funded by Australia Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Hub "Reclaimed waste resources to engineered materials and solutions for a circular economy" Component Project with Wuhan Geoyuan Geotechnical Engineering Co Ltd. (IH200100010), 2021-2023. (Lead Chief Investigator, $60,000 AUD)

(7) "Nano-geopolymer composites for underground prefabricated structures", funded by Australia Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Hub "Nanoscience-based construction material manufacturing" Component Project with Wuhan Zhihe Geotechnical Engineering Co., Ltd (IH150100006), 2017-2020. (Lead Chief Investigator, $200,000 AUD)

(8) "National facility for physical fire simulation", funded by Australia Research Council Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LE220100030), 2022-2023. (Chief Investigator, $1,213,351 AUD)

(9) "Collaborative robotics for structural assembly and construction automation", funded by Australia Research Council Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LE210100019), 2021-2022. (Chief Investigator, $664,580.00 AUD)

(10) "Enhanced durability of concrete materials and structures under harsh mining environments", funded by Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (Innovation Connections) Grant with Y.A.T. Capital Group Pty Ltd. (ICG002073), 2022-2023. (Lead Chief Investigator, $100,000 AUD)

(11) "Investigating Lidcombe train station platform 2 concrete surface discolouration", funded by Volumetric Concrete Australia (Antoun) Pty Ltd, 2023-2023. (Chief Investigator, $6,000 AUD)

(12) "IPWEA asset management and financial management guidelines - climate resilient materials for infrastructure assets", funded by BMT Commercial Australia Pty Ltd and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, 2020-2021. (Chief Investigator, $60,000 AUD)

(13) "Design development for geopolymer concrete in precast engineered component applications" funded by Australia Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Hub "Nanoscience-based construction material manufacturing" Component Project with Cement Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (IH150100006), 2017-2020. (Chief Investigator, $200,000 AUD)

(14) "Low Embodied Energy and Carbon Concrete", funded by Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Race for 2030, 2022-2025. (Chief Investigator, $2,075,231 AUD)

(15) "Multifunctional cementitious composites toward future smart concrete infrastructure", funded by UTS-HUST (Huazhong University of Science and Technology) Global Strategic Partnerships Seed Funding Scheme, 2022-2023. (Lead Chief Investigator, $10,000 AUD)

(16) "Multi-functional nano-modified cementitious materials for well cementing", funded by University of Technology Sydney Early Career Researcher (ECR) Grant, 2017-2018. (Sole Chief Investigator, $25,000 AUD)


My Qualifications

PhD in Structural Engineering, Tongji University / Northwestern University (USA), Mar 2009 - Nov 2013


My Awards

(1) University of New South Wales Scientia Fellowship, 2023
(2) World's Top 2% Scientists by Stanford University for career-long and single recent year impact, 2022, 2023.
(3) Best International Collaboration Award, SynerCrete'23 - International Conference on Interdisciplinary Approaches for Cement-based Materials and Structural Concrete, Greece, 2023
(4) Fellow of Engineers Australia (FIEAust), 2023
(5) 2022 Most Downloaded Paper Award "Resour. Conserv. Recycl.: X, 2020, 6: 100036", Resources, Conservation & Recycling Advances, 2023
(6) 2022 Most Cited Paper Award "Resour. Conserv. Recycl.: X, 2020, 6: 100036", Resources, Conservation & Recycling Advances, 2023
(7) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "Energy Build., 2022, 260: 111923", Web of Science, 2023
(8) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "Constr. Build. Mater., 2022, 325: 126718", Web of Science, 2023
(9) International Excellence Fellowship of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, 2022
(10) College of Assessors, New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), 2022
(11) Best Paper Award, 3rd International Conference on Structural Engineering Research (iCSER2022) and 6th GCSTMR World Congress, Australia, 2022
(12) Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT Level 2), 2022
(13) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "Cem. Concr. Compos., 2022, 126: 104379", Web of Science, 2022
(14) Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad (principal supervisor), 2022
(15) Winner of UTS FEIT Faculty 2021 HDR Excellence Award (principal supervisor), 2021
(16) Winner of UTS FEIT Faculty 2021 Post Thesis Scholarship (principal supervisor), 2021
(17) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "J. Build. Eng., 2021, 35: 102074", Web of Science, 2021
(18) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "Sens. Actuator A Phys., 2020, 310: 111763", Web of Science, 2020
(19) Outstanding Early Career Researcher, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UTS, 2017
(20) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "J. Clean. Prod., 2016, 112(1): 466-472", Web of Science, 2016
(21) Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), ARC, 2014
(22) Highly Cited Paper by Clarivate "Constr. Build. Mater., 2012, 31: 364-383", Web of Science, 2012


My Research Activities

Wengui's research interests are in the field of connecting materials property of concrete to structural response, specifically including:

(1) Intelligent/functional concrete (self-sensing, self-healing, hydrophobicity, photocatalysis, energy-saving)
(2) Recycled aggregate concrete materials and structures
(3) Solid waste recovery for sustainable construction materials
(4) Carbon-neutral concrete and CO2 mineralized concrete
(5) Concrete nanotechnology (nanomodification, nanocharacterization)
(6) Concrete durability (chloride transport, reinforcing corrosion)
(7) Seawater sea sand concrete materials and structures
(8) Fire resistance of concrete
(9) Pavement materials and technology

Wengui’s research is focused on advancing intelligent/smart concrete, which has integrated self-healing and self-sensing capacities, to develop sustainable and intelligent infrastructure that is more serviceable and easier to maintain. When concrete is subjected to stress from carrying-on and environmental factors, microscopic defects can form, allowing water, salts, and chemicals to penetrate the concrete. These defects can develop into cracks, which are the major cause of concrete deterioration, including early age cracking due to restrained shrinkage and chloride-induced corrosion of reinforcing steel. To overcome this issue, Wengui has used a permeability-reducing admixture to create self-healing concrete. This type of concrete has an intrinsic ability to rapidly heal restrain shrinkage-induced cracks, thereby preventing early chloride-induced corrosion and significantly reducing maintenance costs. 

Meanwhile, Wengui has developed a cement-based sensor that has integrated self-sensing and hydrophobic abilities, making it more robust and resilient for use in future infrastructure. Compared to conventional sensors, this new sensor can provide more accurate diagnosis and prognosis of the presence, location, and severity of cracks in concrete assets. Through his research, Wengui aims to improve the serviceability and resilience of concrete, as well as its overall performance and safety. By making concrete assets more efficient to operate and maintain, he anticipates major reductions in asset management costs. 


My Research Supervision


Supervision keywords


Areas of supervision

PhD research topics

(1) Smart/functional concrete with self-sensing, self-healing, and hydrophobic capacities. Wengui successfully developed self-sensing concrete with excellent piezoresistivity using single or hybrid conductive rubber fibres, carbon nanotubes or carbon backs to achieve cement-based sensors. He also discovered that chloride ions change the mineralogy of self-healing products for durable concrete. Additionally, he developed hydrophobic concrete using conductive silicone hydrophobic powder. He also first designed and fabricated multifunctional cementitious composites with integrated self-sensing and self-healing properties.

(2) Sustainable construction materials, including recycled concrete, geopolymer composites, waste glass powder concrete, and seawater sea sand concrete to move forward concrete sustainability and low-carbon emission. Wengui first proposed the idea to use fiber-reinforced polymer confinement to remarkably improve strength and ductility of recycled concrete. He first designed and prepared modelled interfacial transition zones (ITZs) to compare the properties of ITZs in Portland cement and geopolymer concretes. These findings contribute to the field of sustainable construction materials toward the net-zero emissions of concrete industry.

(3) Concrete nanotechnology, such as nanocharacterisation and nanomodification. Wengui first applied nanoindentation and -scratch to characterise the thicknesses of old and new interfacial transition zones (ITZs) in various types of concrete. He proved that PeakForce Quantitative Nanomechanics is an efficient tool to identify nanomechanical property, particle size, and thickness of the interface between different nanoscale grains. Using backscattered electron imaging and nanoscratch technique, he quantitatively unveiled the nano/microscale properties of ITZs in geopolymer concrete and developed an effective testing strategy to fundamentally characterise the in-depth heterogeneity of ITZs.


Currently supervising

PhD opportunities are available at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW Sydney (Kensington Campus).

Several scholarships of $37,684 per annum, including tuition fee waiver for a duration of 3-3.5 years will be provided to strong PhD candidates. 


My Engagement

Journal Editorial Board
(1) Special Issue Editor, Editorial Board Member, Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier) (JCR Q1; IF: 7.693)
(2) Associate Editor (Cementitious/Brittle Mix), Editorial Board Member, ASCE's Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering (JCR Q2; IF: 3.651)
(3) Editorial Board Member, Case Studies in Construction Materials (Elsevier) (JCR Q1; IF: 4.934)
(4) Editorial Board Member, Sustainable Materials and Technologies (Elsevier) (JCR Q1; IF: 10.681)
(5) Scientist Editorial Board Member, International Journal of Smart and Nano Materials (Taylor & Francis) (JCR Q1; IF: 4.000)
(6) Editorial Board, International Journal of Construction Management (Taylor & Francis) (JCR Q2)
(7) Editorial Board, Journal of Green Building (Allen Press) (JCR Q1)
(8) Editorial Board, Journal of Infrastructure Preservation and Resilience (Springer Nature)
(9) Guest Editor for Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA): Smart Concrete Issue

Professional Affiliation
(1) Member in NSW State Committee of the Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA), 2023-2025
(2) International Union of Testing and Research Laboratories for Materials and Structures (RILEM)
RILEM 273-RAC (Structural behaviour and innovation of recycled aggregate concrete)
RILEM 278-CHA (Crack-healing of asphalt pavement materials)
RILEM 283-CAM (Chloride transport in alkali-activated materials)
RILEM 302- CNC (Carbon-based nanomaterials for multifunctional cementitious matrices)
(3) American Concrete Institute (ACI)
ACI-555 (Concrete with recycled materials)
ACI-241 (Nanotechnology of concrete)
(4) fib (International Federation for Structural Concrete)
TG4.7 (Structural Applications of Recycled Aggregate Concrete – Properties, Modelling, and Design)
(5) Fellow and Professional Member in Engineers Australia (EA)
(6) Member in American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
(7) Member in Committee of Recycled Aggregate Concrete (China Civil Engineering Society)
(8) Member in The Australian Network of Structural Health Monitoring (ANSHM)
(9) Member in The International Association of Protective Structures (IAPS)
(10) Member in The Australian Nanotechnology Network (ANN)
(11) Member in The International Society for the Environmental and Technical Implications of Construction with Alternative Materials (ISCOWA)
(12) Member of the Royal Society of New South Wales

Driven by a passion to generate a positive impact from his research, Wengui has collaborated industry partners to develop the latest guidance for assessing the impact of climate change on infrastructure in Queensland. He also has effectively improved the durability of concrete under harsh mining environments in Western Australia, creating 10 new jobs, and improving the safety and maintenance of operational mine sites. Working with BMT Commercial, Wengui developed a methodology and guidance for asset managers to assess the impact of climate change on the service life of infrastructure. His currently work on hydrophobic concrete is aimed at extending the service life of concrete infrastructure, estimating to save $7.8 billion in annual maintenance costs in Australia. 

Additionally, he actively engages with the community through lectures and workshops to promote the use of smart concrete and sustainable construction materials, inspiring the next generation of researchers and engineers to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact on society.


My Teaching

Teaching interests

Construction Materials (Undergraduate), Coordination and Lecture

Concrete Technology and Practice (Postgraduate), Coordination and Lecture

Design for Durability (Postgraduate), Coordination and Lecture

Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering (Undergraduate), Lecture

Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Structures (Undergraduate), Lecture

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Location

Civil Engineering Building (H20), Room 615, UNSW Sydney, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia

Map reference (Google map)

Contact

+61 2 9065 2473