AASHTO commends Michigan DOT carbon fiber bridge research – Transportation Today


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The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Research Advisory Committee has recognized the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Lawrence Technological University for carbon fiber bridge research.

The entities have pioneered an innovative alternative to steel in critical bridge applications through the use of carbon fiber components. Carbon fiber strands have a tensile strength comparable to steel, but resist corrosion and require less maintenance.

AASHTO has deemed the effort one of the top 16 research projects of the year. MDOT and university personnel view the accolades national endorsement of work Michigan has been doing for 20 years.

Lawrence Technological University’s Center for Innovative Materials has been researching carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) since 1988. The initiative is funded through multiple research awards from the National Science Foundation and MDOT.

“In 2001, Lawrence Tech, MDOT and the City of Southfield worked together on the deployment of the first three-span CFRP pre-stressed concrete bridge in the country,” Nabil Grace, dean of the College of Engineering at Lawrence Tech, said.

Four years of extensive research in which carbon fiber components were subjected to 300 freeze-thaw cycles, combined fire/loading events, severe weather, and other trials have resulted in bridge designers possessing information needed to predict how CFRP will perform under a variety of real-world conditions.

“This research allowed us to test every question we had about CFRP and get good data so that we can continue to design bridges that are as safe and durable as normal steel bridges but without steel’s corrosive limitations,” Matthew Chynoweth, MDOT chief bridge engineer and director of MDOT’s Bureau of Bridges and Structures, said.

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