Discussing current issues in engineering
With summer road construction underway, associate professor Luna Lu at Purdue University is developing a new technology that could help ease the constant need for highway road repairs across the U.S.
Lu and her team are investigating the use of chemical agents mixed into concrete that absorb and react with water to produce a solid substance that effectively self-seals cracks in the concrete. This technology could also help prevent the seepage of water into concrete and reduce the corrosion of rebar reinforcement.
With the U.S. receiving a D+ rating for infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent U.S. infrastructure report card and an estimated 1 in 3 U.S. highway bridges in need of repair or replacement according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, this technology has the potential to extend the service life of pavements and roads thereby easing the strain on U.S. infrastructure.
In 2019 Lu also developed a concrete sensor technology currently embedded into Indiana highways that provides data on the strength of newly poured concrete, which allows for contractors to know when a new concrete patch is strong enough to be opened to heavy traffic. The sensors can also be permanently left in highways and continually provide real-time information on concrete deterioration.
While the self-sealing research currently applies exclusively to concrete, Lu hopes to expand this technology to asphalt and other road materials in the future. She is also working with the Indiana Department of Transportation to incorporate self-sealing concrete technology into highway bridges by 2021.
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