Degradation phenomena can affect civil structures over their lifespan. The recent advances in nanotechnology and
sensing allow to monitor the behaviour of a structure, assess its performance and identify damage at an early stage. Thus,
maintenance actions can be carried out in a timely manner, improving structural reliability and safety. Structural Health
Monitoring (SHM) is traditionally performed at a global level, with a limited number of sensors distributed over a
relatively large area of a structure. Thus, only major damage conditions are detectable. Dense sensor networks and
innovative structural neural systems, reproducing the structure and the function of the human nervous system, may
overcome this drawback of current SHM systems. Miniaturization and embedment are key requirements for successful
implementation of structural neural systems. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can play an attractive role in the development of
embedded sensors and smart structural materials, since they can provide to traditional cement based materials both
structural capability and measurable response to applied stresses, strains, cracks and other flaws. In this paper
investigations about CNT/cement composites and their self-sensing capabilities are summarized and critically revised.
The analysis of available experimental results and theoretical developments provides useful design criteria for the
fabrication of CNT/cement composites optimized for SHM applications in civil engineering. Specific attention is paid to
the opportunities provided by new RF plasma technologies for the functionalization of CNTs in view of sensor
development and SHM applications.