UT Arlington’s new NSF center and its partnership with industry may lower costs and lessen the need for infrastructure maintenance

Building a more sustainable world

A new National Science Foundation center at The University of Texas at Arlington will determine how to best use composite materials to extend the life-cycle of civil infrastructure, resulting in less maintenance and lower costs to taxpayers.

The new Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure, an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, will highlight the sustainable benefits of using composites in infrastructure construction because traditional methods of repairing roads, bridges and other structures are not working, said Anand Puppala, associate dean for research in UTA’s College of Engineering and the center’s director.

The center has university partnerships with other centers housed at West Virginia University, University of Miami, and North Carolina State University. UT Arlington researchers involved in the project include President Vistasp Karbhari, Shih-Ho Chao, civil engineering associate professor and CICI vice-director; Civil Engineering Professor Laureano Hoyos, Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Xinbao Yu, and Materials Science and Engineering Professor Pranesh Aswath. CICI researchers also have formed partnerships with several outside companies and agencies who will serve in the industrial advisory board.

Researchers for the center, called CICI, will use the five-year, $325,000 National Science Foundation grant, along with annual membership funds from several agencies and industries, to examine ways to use polymers such as fibers, foam and geosynthetics to create stronger, more sustainable infrastructure, such as foundations, retaining walls, slopes and related structures.

“Our hope is that research conducted by CICI will lead to better structures with less maintenance over the next three years,” explained Puppala, who also is a distinguished scholar professor in the Civil Engineering Department. “Sustainability is highly important, and although building the structures may be more expensive, the hope is that the extra money will be recouped through lower maintenance costs.”

CICI site is a part of UTA’s Sustainable and Resilience Civil Infrastructure Center. CICI researchers will conduct life-cycle analysis by comparing a baseline of traditional methods to costs and durability when using composites and geopolymers and hoping to show that overall costs are lower.

The center also will lessen carbon footprints related to infrastructure, using low-impact recycled plastics and materials that can be assembled quicker to reduce the number of days needed to build infrastructure.

“This new center puts UT Arlington in a position where we can contribute to the economically critical area of construction in new and innovative ways,” said UT Arlington Dean of Engineering Khosrow Behbehani. “This important work will lead to devising methods of how to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure that will be more cost-effective with improved outcome.”

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 50,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.