APRIL 5, 2023 — The deterioration of transportation infrastructure has become a growing issue for the nation, so a UTSA professor is researching transformative technologies that provide feasible solutions.
Samer Dessouky, a professor in UTSA’s Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, is part of a team that has been awarded a five-year contract totaling $10 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The funding will enable the team to create and support a Transportation Infrastructure Precast Innovation Center (TRANS-IPIC) that will improve the durability and extend the life of transportation infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, railroads, pavements and ports. Five universities including UTSA will make up the consortium.
Emerging technologies to address infrastructure issues such as robotics and automated manufacturing face challenges including high costs. It is also difficult to incorporate delicate technologies into construction sites using conventional techniques where concrete is poured on-site.
The researchers will focus on the use of precast concrete, which is casted in a reusable mold and cured in a controlled environment and transported to a construction site and maneuvered into place.
This approach provides a controlled environment for engineers to incorporate new technologies that can quickly and significantly impact the durability and service life of infrastructure.
“Outcomes from this center will lead to advancing the field of building information modeling (BIM), automated manufacturing and repair of precast elements using new technologies like unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones and additive manufacturing (3D printing) of forms and concrete,” Dessouky said.
The researchers at the Transportation Infrastructure Precast Innovation Center, led by Bassem Andrawes at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, also aim to develop precast concrete that can conduct self-assessments using smart materials and remote sensing.
The new center will focus on the following three key research topic areas: (1) application of new materials and technologies, (2) construction methodologies and management, and (3) condition monitoring and remote sensing. The research that TRANS-IPIC conducts will play a significant role in supporting U.S. DOT Strategic Plan goals including Transformation, Climate & Sustainability, and Safety.
The group will also recommend long-term solutions by replacing existing infrastructure with more durable components that are built in a controlled environment and more efficiently to reduce cost, carbon emissions and increase quality and productivity.
As a Tier One research university and a Hispanic Serving Institution, UTSA is committed to tackling society’s grand challenges through world-class education and research programs. As an urban serving university, it is driving San Antonio’s knowledge economy, living out the notion that great universities need great cities and great cities need great universities.
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