• Quake-resistant superelastic alloy developed

    Japanese scientists added a small amount of nickel to an iron-based alloy, and found that the new material can recover its original shape at any temperature from -196 to 240 degrees Celsius; the material may be used in environments that are constantly exposed to extreme temperatures, such as joints and controls in cars, planes, and spacecraft; it may also help buildings cushion stress and violent movement in earthquakes

  • "Sensing skin" to monitor concrete infrastructure health inexpensively

    In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned the grade D to the overall quality of infrastructure in the United States and said that ongoing evaluation and maintenance of structures was one of five key areas necessary for improving that grade; civil engineers recently proposed a new method for the electronic, continual monitoring of structures

  • RAILENIUM awarded 550 million Euro boost from French government

    RAILENIUM, the European Institute for Technological Research in Rail Infrastructure, has been selected by the French government as a leading investment project and has been awarded 550 million Euros in funding; the equipment and research platforms that RAILENIUM will provide will be unique in Europe; this will include a 5 km rail test loop, a tramway test track, a fatigue-simulation track, running trial facilities, and service structures

  • New concrete could increase life of bridges by forty years

    Researchers have developed a new type of concrete that could increase the lifespan of bridges by more than forty years compared to normal strength concrete; the more durable type of concrete minimizes shrinkage, a problem typically found in high-strength concrete; the new concrete is also less likely to crack, which reduces the ability for corrosive materials like chlorides from de-icing salts to seep into the bridge’s internal structure; the new concrete uses a lightweight porous type of sand

  • Surprise: Thomas Edison also invented the concrete house

    Historians say Thomas Edison invented and patented in 1917 an innovative construction system to mass produce prefabricated and seamless concrete houses; most people associate this style of architectural design and type of building technology with the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century; originally motivated by the objective of providing a cost-effective prototype for the working-class home, Edison’s 1917 experiment in mass-production was one of Modernism’s first attempts to construct a building with a single material

  • Making high-speed rail tracks safer

    High-speed rail requires prestressed concrete railroad ties, as wooden cross ties are too flexible; for these ties to be effective, prestressing forces must be applied at a considerable distance before the rail load is applied; this is called the transfer length; to resist the heavy impacts the concrete ties utilize about twenty steel wires, each stressed to around 7,000 pounds; if the prestressed force is not properly transferred, failures can occur in the track

  • China admits to critical flaws at world’s largest dam

    Last week, the Chinese government made a rare announcement and publicly admitted that there were critical problems at the Three Gorges dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, lending support to the growing opposition to future dam projects; with the approval of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the country’s second in command, last Thursday the State Council announced that the Three Gorges dam had been plagued by a series of problems “urgently in need of resolution”; problems include ecological deterioration, geological disasters, and the lingering uncertain status of more than one million people displaced by the dam; this is the first time such a high-ranking government official has publicly acknowledged the dam’s problems

  • More American civil engineers deployed to Japan to study damage

    Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) deployed two more disaster assessment teams to Japan to study the damage wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami; the two teams, the third and fourth deployed by ASCE, will tour the damaged areas which include the approximately 292 square miles inundated by the tsunami; one team will focus on examining the effects that the tsunami and earthquake had on port structures; the other team will focus their efforts on investigating the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on coastal structures like tsunami walls, breakwaters, and seawalls

  • U.S. mayors want greater input in federal transportation funding decisions

    Last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) released the results of a recent survey of mayors in 176 cities on local infrastructure investment; the study revealed that mayors want the federal government to spend more money on infrastructure projects in metropolitan areas rather than highway expansion projects; 96 percent of mayors believed the federal government needed to increase spending on transportation infrastructure to fix rapidly deteriorating public infrastructure; a strong majority supported raising the gas tax to provide additional funds to improve infrastructure

  • Rebuilding Seattle's viaduct will not result in nightmare commutes

    Debate about how to replace Seattle’s deteriorating waterfront highway has centered on uncertainties in the project’s price tag; drilling a deep-bore tunnel and building an underground highway is estimated to cost around $4 billion, but some worry the final price could be higher, as it was for Boston’s infamous Big Dig; University of Washington statisticians have, for the first time, explored a different subject of uncertainty, namely: how much commuters might benefit from the project

  • U.S. infrastructure lagging far behind Europe

    America’s transportation infrastructure is quickly falling behind the rest of the world as roads continue to fall into disrepair, railroad lines age, and airports become more congested resulting in longer commute times, more delays, and increasing transportation-related fatalities; the United States now ranks twenty-third overall for infrastructure quality between Spain and Chile; government expenditures on infrastructure have fallen to just 2.4 percent of GDP; in contrast Europe invests 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure and China 9 percent; U.S. infrastructure investment has fallen behind largely as a result of the highway trust fund’s declining revenues, which are generated from gas and vehicle taxes

  • Recycled concrete saves money

    Purdue University civil engineers are working with the Indiana Department of Transportation to perfect the use of recycled concrete for highway construction, a strategy that could reduce material costs by as much as 20 percent; “If you are going to pave, you may have to remove the old concrete and break it into pieces anyway, so recycling makes sense,” one of the researchers says

  • Secret bomb-proofing building design posted on the Web

    The Pentagon is building two towers in Alexandria, Virginia, to house 6,400 personnel; the Army Corps of Engineers inadvertently posted the bomb-proofing specifications for the new buildings on the Web; experts say this will allow terrorist to learn how to circumvent the building defenses; there is another problem; the documents reveal that the specifications call for the building to be designed to resist threats posed by vehicle bombs detonated outside the building’s security perimeter carrying the equivalent of 220 pounds of TNT; experts say this is not enough; Timothy McVeigh used 4,000 pounds of TNT in Oklahoma City in 1995; the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center involved 900 pounds; the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 involved 12,000 pounds of TNT

  • Lessons from Japan's tsunami could dramatically shift building codes

    American tsunami experts and engineers are scouring the devastation wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami to analyze how structures fared during the natural disasters and what lessons can be applied to U.S. building codes; experts are particularly concerned about the toppling of a reinforced-concrete building as that has been the baseline for tsunami construction and evacuation procedures; experts were stunned by the devastation and are concerned about America’s West Coast which is significantly less prepared than Japan for an earthquake or tsunami; in particular experts are concerned about Oregon which shares many geological similarities to Japan’s northeastern coast; researchers hope to learn valuable lessons that will minimize the destruction from a similar event in the United States

  • Shoring up U.K. infrastructure essential to country's welfare

    The United Kingdom suffers from some of the most congested infrastructure in the developed world and a failure to invest in these will have serious impacts upon the country’s long-term economic future; improvements to transport, energy, and ICT infrastructure could increase GDP by an additional 0.7 percent