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.
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