U.S. DOT Funds University Research on Sustainable Concrete

From left to right: UTA Engineering Dean Peter Crouch, Panagiotis Danoglidis, UTA assistant professor of civil engineering; Maria Konsta-Gdoutos, civil engineering professor and director for the Center for Durable and Resilient Transportation Infrastructure; Robert Hampshire, U.S. Department of Transportation deputy assistant secretary for research and technology; and Kate Miller, UTA vice president for research and innovation. Photo courtesy of UTA.

A University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) (Arlington, Texas, USA) civil engineering researcher is looking to develop a new age of greener and more energy-efficient concrete with 30% lower manufacturing, operational and maintenance costs, targeting a 50% extended lifetime and negative net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in transportation infrastructure. 

Maria Konsta-Gdoutos is a civil engineering professor and the associate director for the Center for Advanced Construction Materials, which is receiving a $10 million, give-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a Tier 1 University Transportation Center (UTC) for Durable and Resilient Transportation Infrastructure (DuRe-Transp). 

“We will improve the durability, extend the life, and make for cleaner transportation infrastructure,” Konsta-Gdoutos says. “The research will spearhead a holistic program to revitalize the nation’s transportation infrastructure, improving the current ‘fair’ category of U.S. bridges and pavements to ‘good.’ This center will drive the development of standard guidelines for the formulation and deployment for the next generation of resilient and durable construction materials.” 

The center comprises of a consortium of researchers from UTA, Howard University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Oregon State University, Purdue University, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. 

Robert Hampshire, DOT’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, says the projects conducted at UTA could transform the concrete industry. 

“The winners in this research could be anyone who drives a vehicle,” Hampshire says. “There are 3,233 miles of the 45,000-mile Interstate Highway System in Texas, according to the Texas DOT. And with more than 680,000 total road miles in Texas, if the center can find a way to make roads more costly, more durable, and greener, everyone wins.” 

Peter Crouch, dean of the UTA College of Engineering, says the university is becoming a beacon of civil engineering research. 

“It isn’t just the individual motorist who will benefit from these projects, it is the overall taxpayer,” Crouch says. “If we can dedicate a portion of the savings on roads to higher education or secondary schools or park, everybody benefits.” 

The power of the center’s research capabilities comes from using an advanced atomic microscopy system. This highly technological instrument provides necessary data to design greener concrete and engineer its nanostructure and properties. UTA is the only university to have this tool.

Konsta-Gdoutos says researchers will use the sophisticated machine to see the nanostructure of concrete through topographical imaging at sub-2 nanometer scale, then identify the chemical phases and composition of materials at the atomic and nanoscale. In addition, the center’s researchers will be able to use a state-of-the-art X-ray nanoscale computed tomography system for sub-250 nanometer 3D imaging and non-destructive scanning and reconstruction of the concrete’s internal nanostructure and microstructure. 

According to Konsta-Gdoutos, this analysis will allow the center to create advanced structural retrofitting and repair solutions for existing infrastructure. Researchers are focusing on developing carbon-neutral material and renewable energy-related technologies for reducing GHG emissions in transportation infrastructure and alleviating urban heat islands.  

Source: UTA, www.uta.edu