This Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) project from the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) has two primary objectives: to develop novel precast concrete bridge elements to resist loads such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., without being damaged and to develop connection and column products that can be disassembled and recycled. Meeting these objectives will provide essential elements for a new paradigm, "Highway for Life (HFL)," an expression created by the Federal Highway Administration for the U.S. highway industry to capture the idea of advancing long lasting highways through innovation. In this study, novel materials with demonstrated potential through past studies by the PI and four knowledge-enhancement partner (KEP) small businesses will be adopted. Several modular elements will be developed consisting of Nickel-Titanium shape memory alloys, built-in elastomeric pads, engineered cementitious composites, and fiber-reinforced polymer structural members. Large-scale structural models will be built and tested to evaluate performance under large deformations and to identify measures to improve and refine the connections. The proposed research will be collaborative; involving an extensive exchange of ideas, information, and knowledge enabled by using regularly scheduled face-to-face or cyber-assisted meetings among the principal investigator and KEP business members. The existing mechanisms at UNR Technology Transfer Office to protect intellectual property of the PIs and of the small business partners will be used to facilitate the project. A project advisory board consisting of representatives from state and federal highway agencies will review the proposed designs and provide feedback to maximize the probability of acceptance of the connections in bridge construction.
The broader impacts of this research are new connection and column products with potential new markets in the U.S. and other countries, especially for the knowledge enhancement partner small businesses involved in this project. The potential benefits to the travelling public are damage-free bridges that could remain functional even after disastrous events such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Emergency response vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks will be able to continue to use the highway system and provide the much needed service without delays. The impact on the general public is a more efficient use of materials and energy and less pollution because sustainable and recyclable bridges save tremendous amounts of energy. The direct educational impact of the project is the knowledge that the UNR team, including graduate and undergraduate students, and the small business partners will gain by closely working with each other. It is the intent of the project to engage undergraduate students in a research context which is both challenging and purposeful, so as to motivate them to pursue graduate education. The tests of the novel materials will be webcast with the testing schedule widely announced to maximize the number of online visitors. The findings from this study will be posted on the project website. Furthermore, presentations to various technical groups will be made and the highlights of the project will be incorporated in two advanced structural engineering courses. To maximize the probability of involvement of underrepresented groups, the PI will work with the UNR McNair program (a program aimed at increasing the number of doctoral students from underrepresented groups) and seek assistance in identifying potential talented students at the undergraduate and PhD level who could work on the project.
Partners at the inception of the project are the Knowledge-Enhancement Partnership (KEP) unit, consisting of the University of Nevada Reno (the structural engineering program of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Technology Transfer Office) and four small businesses: Dynamic Isolation Systems (DIS), Inc. (McCarran, NV), FiberMatrix, Inc. (Sparks, NV), Hexel Fyfe Co. LLC (San Diego, CA) and Nitinol Technology, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA). Other partners are public sector organizations: Federal Highway Administration, California Department of Transportation, South Carolina Department of Transportation, and State of Washington Department of Transportation.