A technique that reveals the progress of disease in humans, animals and plants could help stop premature corrosion in concrete.
Chlorides in water are highly corrosive and cause devastating damage to the steel reinforcement bars that give concrete structures their strength. But scientists know little about the rate and precise nature of the seepage.
Researchers at Dundee, Kent and Surrey universities are using nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to show the chloride-laden water's voyage of penetration and how the chloride ion, found in seawater and de-icing salt, interacts with the concrete.
The consortium, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, includes mathematicians, physicists, chemists and concrete technologists. It believes it has the edge on rivals worldwide trying to find a solution.
Geoff Hunter, head of Dundee's chemistry department, said: "The beauty of these techniques is that stray field imaging is now allowing us to see what has never been seen before, namely water travelling through concrete, and magic angle spinning spectroscopy is giving us information about the chemical processes also occurring in the concrete."