Civil engineering students look for faster ways to repair roads damaged by improvised explosive devices

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On April 20, 2010

It’s tough to keep supply routes open in Afghanistan and Iraq when people are intent on exploding improvised explosive devices on the roads.

That’s why two civil engineering students at Missouri University of Science and Technology are studying various brands of rapid-setting concrete in an attempt to understand the best ways to patch huge potholes and repair damaged roadways.

Travis Hemsath and Matthew Struemph, both seniors, are studying eight different mixes of concrete. They are trying to find a mix that is capable of repairing an IED crater within two hours.

“Right now, it can take a day or more to fix the craters,” says Hemsath, who is from St. Charles, Mo. “They have to guard the holes at all times. The soldiers are at risk while they watch the concrete harden.”

Working with cement, sand, rock and water, Hemsath and Struemph are conducting their experiments in a temperature chamber at Missouri S&T. The concrete mixes settle slower in cold weather. The students are recording how long it takes the mixes to settle at various temperatures.

“The Army needs something fast and simple,” says Struemph, who is from St. Thomas, Mo. “Their priority is to patch the problem and keep the routes open. We want to give them a playbook. If they have a hole and it’s 70 degrees outside, we want them to be able to see how to proceed.”

The study is being funded by the Leonard Wood Institute. Dr. John Myers, associate professor of civil engineering at Missouri S&T, is directing the research.

Hemsath and Struemph have been involved in phase one of the project. Myers and other researchers will test concrete mixes in the field during phase two.

“We are trying to find the best mix that optimizes performance in several mechanical and material tests,” says Myers. “We are also looking into a more sustainable rapid set concrete that has our own recommended formulation.”

Dan Kienitz and Levi Smith, both graduate students at S&T, have also been involved with the research.

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