Researchers at the University of Missouri-Rolla are working with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to improve the stability and strength of Missouri bridges.
MoDOT recently invested $1.2 million into UMR’s research using composites to strengthen bridges.
According to The Road Information Program (TRIP), Missouri has the second-highest percentage of deficient bridges in the country, with more than 26 percent of the state’s bridges, 20 feet or longer, in need of immediate repair or replacement.
Researchers from the UMR Center for Infrastructure Engineering Studies (CIES) — led by Dr. Antonio Nanni, the Vernon and Maralee Jones Missouri Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering — plan to test a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite systems on five bridges in rural areas. A composite material is lightweight and flexible, and can be used to strengthen old bridges and buildings at low cost, Nanni says.
The material can also be used as a bandage of sorts, wrapped around pillars or wallpapered on lengths of concrete or other structural material to strengthen the structure. A benefit to using this method on a bridge is that the material can be applied without disrupting traffic flow.
Nanni hopes that the results of this research will validate the strengthening technologies in the field and develop guidelines for design, construction and inspection to be used by MoDOT for future projects.
Although this may sound like a ‘quick fix’ to Missouri’s bridge problems, it may be just what the state needs, Nanni says.
"It is in difficult times, such as at present, that new ideas and processes are generated and their implementation leads to progress and more efficiency," says Nanni.
This is the latest of several experiments for UMR’s fiber-reinforced composite materials. Last year, the research group applied the composites to the Martin Springs Bridge, which is 77 years old and located in Phelps County, near Rolla. The researchers first tested the materials in Missouri in 1998 on a Depression-era bridge located in Iron County, Mo.
The researchers also have tested their materials on the old Malcolm Bliss Hospital in St. Louis and have demonstrated the materials effectiveness in several field tests, including their use in bridges in St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., St. James, Mo., and Boone County, Mo.
Other researchers involved in this effort include: Dr. Timothy Ibell, a Fullbright Scholar from the University of Bath, United Kingdom; Dr. John Myers, assistant professor of civil engineering; Dr. Steve Watkins, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Reza Zoughi, Schlumberger Professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Grzegorz Galecki, research assistant professor of mining engineering; and Dr. Norbert Maerz, assistant professor of mining engineering.