Michigan research into carbon fiber bridge components gains national recognition

Study chosen as one of the highest value transportation research projects in the nation

September 11, 2020 / 2 minute read
Michigan research into carbon fiber bridge components gains national recognition
Image: Michigan DOT

The Michigan DOT (MDOT) and Lawrence Technological University in Southfield are receiving recognition for research using carbon fiber components in critical bridge applications.

The study was recently chosen as one of the highest value transportation research projects in the nation. The Research Advisory Committee at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) named it one of the top 16 research projects of 2020. MDOT says it is a significant national endorsement of work Michigan has been doing for 20 years.

MDOT built the nation's first carbon fiber bridge in 2001. The department says carbon fiber components are similar to steel in strength, but they resist corrosion and require less maintenance over time.

During four years of extensive research, carbon fiber components were subjected to 300 freeze-thaw cycles, combined fire/loading events, severe weather, and other trials. Now, bridge designers have the information and specifications they need to predict how carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) will perform under a variety of real-world conditions, as well as the design tools for future bridge projects.

"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 in a statement.

MDOT says the data from this research confirm what proponents of CFRP have long theorized. Investigators found that CFRP strands held up well to conditions that simulated Michigan's harsh weather. Moisture, rain, freezing rain, and extreme temperature swings did not significantly affect the material's strength or mechanical properties over time. In addition, test results showed that some currently accepted parameters for CFRP are conservative and can be updated.

The full story can be found on MDOT's website.


SOURCE: Michigan DOT

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