PROBLEM: With over 3 million bridges worldwide, bridge corrosion taxes our society at the rate of over $10 billion per year. Because of corrosion from acid rain and road salting, key bridge components often fail within 10 to 15 years. Making bridge components out of corrosion-resistant composite materials could extend bridge life by l5O years, and decimate the huge bridge replacement taxes. However, polymer composite materials must be designed appropriately to achieve the stiffness of steel.

SOLUTION: The City of Akron, Ohio is having a 70 foot, composite, pedestrian bridge built to connect an office building and a parking garage to demonstrate the use of composites as a durable bridge material. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has volunteered to test the bridge in the Air Force's airplane structural test facility. AFRL engineers have developed and tested fiber reinforced structures for airplanes, missiles, and satellites for the USAF in this facility for decades.

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with AFRL, the Edison Polymer Innovation Corporation (EPIC) will send engineering students from Cleveland State University to participate in the composite bridge test at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). EPIC is one of Ohio's Edison Technology Centers that stimulates industrial development of polymers by establishing collaborative partnerships with industry and Universities. The students will use this experience on future composite bridge designs. Many of the skills needed to design and build a composite bridge reside only in the aerospace industry where the durable and lightweight nature of composites has been used.


  • EPIC will gain valuable experience in the testing of polymer matrix composite bridges. The broad participation in the Consortium allows many organizations to apply this technology to other infrastructure problems, creating new engineering and business opportunities.
  • The Air Force and the country benefit by the transfer of technology once used exclusively for defense to the preservation and upgrading of the transportation and housing infrastructure. This transfer not only assists in keeping the technology base intact, but opens the way to continual and expanded research into areas that benefit both the defense and civilian-use industries.
  • Because the world has millions of bridges, but only thousands of airplanes, bridge use of carbon fibers could increase fiber production volumes 1,000 fold, and drive carbon fiber prices quite low. Bridges have the same structural, weathering, and cost problems as airplanes do and can afford high priced carbon fibers.
  • Governments get double benefit - lower cost carbon fiber for military airplanes and missiles and longer life bridges.
  • Airlines and passengers benefit from lower cost composites for commercial airplanes.
  • Athletes benefit from lower cost carbon fiber for composite skis, golf clubs and tennis racquets.
  • Commuters may benefit from composite automobiles and buses with lower cost and weight and longer life.


  • AFRL will test a new fiber-composite, pedestrian bridge in the Building 65 Aircraft Structural Test Bay.
  • This bridge will be installed in downtown Akron for the City of Akron.
  • Cleveland State University Civil Engineering students will witness and participate in the test.
  • The bridge will be strained to its design load and a factor of safety to assure its capability to carry people.
If you have any questions about this Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or are interested in getting more information about technology transfer and CRADA projects, please contact Jim Singer at Wright Technology Network (937) 253-0217 or CRADA@wtn.org

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