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Wednesday, April 2,2014

Engineering school debuts its brand-new civil infrastructure lab

By Christian Law
Photo Credits: Photo by Lori Crook.
Photo Caption: The Russ College of Engineering’s mobile civil-infrastructure lab.

The Russ College of Engineering and Technology hosted a tour of its new mobile civil infrastructure truck on Tuesday, introducing the research center to the public.

The lab is used by the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE) to research pavement, weather and climate, traffic measurements, and other variables that affect the quality and safety of construction work on roads.

The mobile lab, which has been in use since last summer, will soon begin to travel through Ohio and other states to aid road construction by taking the measurements of asphalt and cement or concrete needed at project sites. These measurements are used to determine whether the materials being used are safe and meet regulations while also ensuring that weather conditions will be conducive for construction.

Gayle Mitchell, director of ORITE, helped host the event and showcase what made the truck so important to the nation's civil infrastructure.

"When we wanted to find out what the material characteristics or conditions of the roadway were, we would take the sample at the site… and we would test it in the laboratory," said Mitchell. "Now, we're taking the laboratory to the site. It overcomes a number of shortcomings of having to take the samples to the lab."

Some of these shortcomings include a time delay in the study of materials, which may change the composition of some samples, and the vibrations caused by transportation, which could also compromise the samples.

Shad Sargand, associate director of ORITE, also spoke on the benefits of taking measurements on site.

"If you could give input to the contractor or the engineer on the site… they immediately could act and fix it," said Sargand. "If you bring it to the lab, sometimes it's too late or the work is finished."

The mobile lab is equipped with numerous tools used to take these measurements at highway project site, including a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) that can find abnormalities under the ground, a large microwave oven used to test the melting point of materials, and a fresh water system contained within the lab.

Although the lab is scheduled to begin working in Nelsonville and New York later this year, it has already begun helping local construction projects. ORITE used the lab to aid workers in constructing the Nelsonville Bypass safely and efficiently in 2013.

The initial investment for the lab itself came from an endowment fund in the Russ College, while the equipment in the facility was funded by other external sources. The truck, which is owned by OU, is the only one of its kind in Ohio.


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