ARLINGTON - A University of Texas at
Arlington civil engineer has secured $1.75 million in grants this year, part of
which will go toward developing a new sensor that will help measure soil
stability and advances in soils treatments to better support highways and water
and sewer pipes in unstable soils.
Among the awards to Anand Puppala, a UT
Arlington distinguished teaching professor in civil
engineering, is a new, highly competitive grant from the National Academy
of Science’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The grant is part
of the prestigious Innovation Deserving Exploratory Analysis, or IDEA, program.
This road near Joe Pool Lake shows sulfate-induced heaving. Photo courtesy of Les Perrin, former chief of geotechnical section at the Army Corps of Engineers office in Fort Worth.
Puppala and his research team
will use the funds to create a field sensor capable of more quickly and
accurately detecting sulfate- or gypsum-induced buckling, also known as heaving,
Such breaks can wreck havoc on
road systems and underground water and sewer pipes. Several North Texas roads
have bee damaged by heaving, including stretches of Texas 161, some south
Arlington roads and roads near Joe Pool Lake at Cedar Hill State Park.
Gypsum is a sulfate crystal that
can lead to the formation of a mineral called ettringite in the soil when mixed
with cement or lime. When ettringite is exposed to water, it expands, which in
turn damages roads and structures.
Lime makes the soil less
expansive, easier to work with and stronger, Puppala said. Most soils in United
States are treated with lime or cement before roads are constructed, he said.
“It is important to develop a
new field methodology that could tell us quickly whether the native soil
treatments with lime and cement could lead to this type of heaving,” Puppala
said. “The field sensor will be designed to save construction time and money.”
Puppala is working with Simon
Chao, an assistant professor in civil engineering, on the project.
The Transportation Research
Board administers the IDEA program along with state departments of
transportation, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials and the Federal Highway Administration. The NCHRP was created in 1962
to conduct research in acute problem areas that affect highways.
Among Puppala’s other research
- $500,000 from the NCHRP project to identify
alternative methods to using nuclear-gauge tools for addressing the compaction
of natural subsoils and aggregate bases that support pavement infrastructure.
If compaction of the materials is not properly done in the field, then the
pavements experience high rutting and cracking. Puppala said there is an
industry movement away from nuclear-gauge tools that measure the soils. The
joint project includes the University of Texas at El Paso and Louisiana State
- $381,550 from the Texas Department of
Transportation to study how to improve high sulfate soils in Texas. UT
Arlington is the lead institution in this joint project with Texas
Transportation Institute of Texas A&M University. The study focuses on
developing treatments to address soils containing high amounts of sulfates.
Roads in various districts including Austin, Fort Worth and Paris, Texas, have
experienced problems tied to sulfate levels. The research will develop methods
that may reduce buckling in such soils.
- $175,143 from the Tarrant Regional Water
District to study ground treatment options for subsoils that would better
support large pipe infrastructure. Puppala said his team would study on how to
stabilize soils at the bottom of the trench for supporting large pipes.
Stabilization methods address both durability and sustainability aspects.
Laureano Hoyos, associate professor in civil engineering,
and Srinivas Chittoori, a faculty associate researcher, are working with
Puppala on the projects along with several doctoral and master’s students.
Puppala’s work is representative of the research under way
at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research institution
of 33,800 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.