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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Exploratory Advanced Research Program

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Next generation solutions to build, maintain and manage future highways

Current research in this focus area

Project Title and Short Description



Volumetric Particle Image Velocimetry (VPIV) System for Experimental Bridge Scour Research – A proposed high resolution VPIV system would allow measurement of instantaneous flow volumes around bridge pier models, leading to more precise scour predictive models.

FHWA lead with Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory

Anticipated completion in 2012

Carbon Nanotube Based Self-sensing Concrete for Pavement Structural Health Monitoring - This study proposes to develop a new intelligent self-sensing concrete pavement that can monitor its own structural health by continuously detecting internal stress level changes of the pavement. In the proposed pavement structure, the concrete is mixed with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), whose piezoresitive property will enable the concrete to detect the changes in the mechanical stress. CNTs can also work as the concrete reinforcement elements that could enhance the strength and durability of the pavement structure.

A distinguished and innovative feature of this proposed research is that the pavement itself also functions as its own structural health monitoring sensor. Compared to the current pavement health monitoring technologies, the proposed approach has several advantages including low cost, large area coverage, long service life, little maintenance required, and no structural degradation due to the embedment of external sensors. Therefore, if successful, the proposed work will have significant impacts on the field of pavement structural health monitoring.

University of Minnesota

Underway with completion anticipated in March 2012

Multifunctional Nanomaterials and Processes for Infrastructure Repair and Corrosion Inhibition - This project seeks to develop technologies for new in situ nanomaterial-based repair methods that can tailor the materials to include multifunctional properties of carbon nanotubes. The proposed effort will create new materials and methods to either repair or retrofit structures located both above and underwater to inhibit corrosion The team will take advantage of the advancement in nanomaterials, in particular, carbon nanotubes and their related versatile physical and mechanical properties, to develop an onsite spray based method to develop a structural capacity enhancement and a barrier layer for corrosion resistance. The technical innovations could lead to profound impacts in advanced multifunctional strengthening and repair technology.

Florida State University

Underway with completion anticipated in May 2011

Flexible Skin Areal Shear Stress and Pressure Sensing System for Experimental Bridge Scour Research – This study will explore ways to directly measure instantaneous boundary shear stresses and pressure fields for small scale bridge scour experiments to significantly advance the understanding of bridge scour problems.

FHWA lead with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Anticipated completion in 2011

The Composite Behavior and the Design Requirements of Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) Structures – This research will seek to understand how geosynthetic reinforcement interacts with compacted soil to allow for more effective and rational design guidance of GRS walls for highway applications.

FHWA lead


Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) for corrosion detection in reinforced concrete structures incorporating time-resolved thermography combined with three-dimensional (3-D) microwave Imaging–Corrosion of steel reinforcements is the main cause of damage and early failure of reinforced concrete structures in civil engineering. An objective, spatially resolved, and rapid corrosion inspection method could lead to cost savings of billions of dollars worldwide through the detection of corroded reinforcement in concrete at an early stage. To overcome difficulties with conventional inspection techniques, a benchmark project focuses on the promising technique of time-resolved thermography with induction heating combined with 3-D microwave imaging.

National Research Council Research Associate


Development of Stiffness Measuring Device for Foot Pad Roller Sensor for Pavements - The aim is to develop a measurement approach to determine mechanistic soil properties (e.g. stiffness, modulus) continuously in real time during static compaction of fine and mixed grain soils with a pad-foot roller compactor.
Fact sheet here.

Colorado School of Mines, Division of Engineering with Caterpillar Inc. and other roller manufacturers

Underway with completion anticipated in June 2011

High Performance Stress-Relaxing Cementitious Composites for Crack Free Pavements and Transportation Structures - The research is attempting a crosscutting and bold approach to address the issue of cracking in concrete pavements and structures. The research study proposes new concepts to prevent or reduce cracks, which are a major problem in portland cement concrete. If successful, the project can point the way to a new use of nanoscale- to microscale inclusions in the concrete to enable it to relax a little under stress, thus reducing harmful cracking in concrete pavements.
Fact sheet here.

Texas A&M University, Texas Transportation Institute

Underway with completion anticipated in August 2011

Development and Demonstration of System-Based Monitoring Approaches for Improved infrastructure Management Under Uncertainty - This research will develop a novel integrated framework for improved infrastructure management, using novel sensing technologies, deterioration models, and decision making tools.
Fact sheet here.

University of Central Florida with Lehigh University and Florida DOT

Underway with completion anticipated in October 2011

Greatly Increased Use of Fly Ash in Hydraulic Cement Concrete (HCC) for Pavement Layers and Transportation Structures - The research will examine: (1) material compatibility, (2) prediction methods for property development, (3) temperature and strength development management, (4) internal and external curing, (5) reducing early age cracking, and (6) improving freezing/scaling durability. Carefully controlled large scale test sections will be prepared to evaluate the proposed solutions from each phase. This large scale testing will be unique due to the ability to carefully establish and monitor the environment that the HVFA concrete is placed in while monitoring and testing these structures.
Fact sheet here.

Purdue University and FHWA

Underway with completion anticipated in March 2012

Green Advanced Coatings for Application on Steel Structures and Bridges - The object of this project is to develop novel, nanotechnology-based green coatings for corrosion protection of new and existing steel highway infrastructure. Two coating systems will be investigated and compared to traditional steel anti-corrosive coatings. The two proposed coatings will use conductive polymer nanoparticles to provide electrochemical corrosion inhibition, carbon-black additives to improve the scratch resistance and toughness of these coatings, and metallic nanoparticles to improve the dispersion of the additives. The proposed new coatings will be compared to a traditional zinc-enhanced, epoxy-based coating for both mechanical strength and corrosion protection. The advantage of the nanotechnology-based coatings lies in their expected ability, with a very low concentration of additives, to provide significant corrosion protection while improving adhesion strength and scratch resistance. This could lead to significant savings in their life-cycle costs.

The City College of New York

Underway with completion anticipated in December 2012

New Technologies for development of renewable energy in the public right-of-way - The aim of this project is to develop a novel Roadway Wind/Solar Hybrid Power Generation and Distribution System (RHPS) towards energy-plus roadways, where energy-plus stands for annual energy consumption that is less than production. The RHPS would be an low footprint, intelligent and multi-layer power system designed for integration into urban and suburban areas, which reduces the need for new distribution networks.  The RHPS represents a dramatic change the role of the public right-of-way from an energy consumer to an energy producer and, therefore, will aid in reducing transportation system operating costs. [More]

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Underway with completion anticipated in April 2013


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