ARLINGTON - The National
Science Foundation has awarded a University of Texas at Arlington civil
engineering professor two grants that could change the way expansive soils are
tested, leading to better construction practices.
Anand Puppala, a
UT Arlington Distinguished Teaching Professor in civil engineering, said the three-year
grant for $257,000 uses the Soil Water Characteristic Curve to test those
soils. Puppala is teaming with researchers from Arizona State University in the
“The Soil Water
Characteristic Curve method injects water into soil, then dries it out and test
what the soil does when we do that,” Puppala said.
firms typically consider what is known as the “plasticity index” when assessing
“It’s a snapshot
of the soil,” Puppala said. “But the soil acts differently in different
seasons. It expands and contracts. If a structure is built during one of those
extremes, it could lead to catastrophe.”
The Soil Water
Characteristic Curve method, Puppala said, is a longer-term look at the soil.
“It leads to better construction because the builders can plan for extremes.”
could save the construction industry millions of dollars, Puppala said.
Structures from single-family homes to multi-story skyscrapers to roads and
bridges could be built better with the technology.
Puppala also has
won a four-year, $400,023 NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant to develop a
triaxial testing device that would measure soil behaviors under different
moisture conditions. NSF has funded only 15 percent of those grant proposals in
the current year.
The device is
unique, Puppala said, and should lead toward better evaluations of soil
characteristics that would lead to better and safer design of civil
“You don’t have
to drive very far here in North Texas to see major problems in construction
because of bad soil. If things were built with better information at hand when
first starting a project, we could save a lot of time and money,” he said.
team for research studying expansive soil includes Laureano Hoyos of civil
engineering who is co-principal investigator, Bhaskar Chittoori, a
post-doctoral researcher, and doctoral student Aravind Pedarla, all from UT
Arlington. Arizona State University collaborators include Claudia Zapata and
interdisciplinary research team for building the testing device includes Hoyos,
Saibun Tjuatja from electrical engineering and John Wickham, chairman and
professor of earth and environmental sciences. The team is custom designing the
instrument with a company and William Likos of the University of Missouri
Columbia. Two doctoral students will be recruited to work with researchers on
is representative of the research under way at The University of Texas at
Arlington, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate institution of nearly
33,000 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.