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WVU expert: Composite materials key to enhancing life of potentially failing infrastructure

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WVU's Hota GangaRao works on composite materials that can enhance the structural life of failing infrastructure. 
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According to a newly released report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the U.S. has more than 54,000 bridges that are considered “structurally deficient.” If these deficient bridges were placed end-to-end, they would stretch 1,216 miles or roughly from New York City to Miami, Florida. An official with the Federal Highway Administration said that ARTBA’s report “underscores the need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure.” 

Hota GangaRao, the Maurice A. and Joann Wadsworth Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at West Virginia University, has done extensive research involving the use of composite materials in rehabbing these aging structures. GangaRao, who serves as director of WVU’s Constructed Facilities Center and Center for the Integration of Composites into Infrastructure, believes composites can enhance the service life of a structure and minimize the cost of field implementation both in terms of real dollars and disruptions to traffic.

“We can manufacture these composite materials on a high-volume basis and assemble them in the field,” GangaRao said. “We can create Band-Aid type applications of fabric dipped in resin that can be wrapped around a structure. We can also pre-impregnate material with resin so that they are easier to use in the field.”

According to GangaRao, the West Virginia Department of Transportation-Division of Highways has embarked on an ambitious program to repair several hundred of the state’s bridges using composites for pennies on the dollar. The goal is to bring structurally deficient bridges to safe working conditions using polymer composites.

“Based on our work in the field, structurally deficient bridges in and around Huntington have been rehabilitated using an in-house construction and maintenance crew,” said GangaRao. “Similarly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has rehabilitated several of their bridges in the state using advanced composite materials.”

GangaRao can be reached at Hota.Gangarao@mail.wvu.edu or 304.293.9986.

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.

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md/01/31/18

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