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UT Arlington researcher to test new standard for stronger, more flexible pipe construction

News Release — 1 April 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contact: Herb Booth, (817) 272-7075, hbooth@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - Researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington are partnering with a Belgian company to test new construction methods for reinforcing concrete pipes with steel fibers to build stronger, more durable pipes at a lower cost.

Ali Abolmaali

Ali Abolmaali

UT Arlington civil engineering professor Ali Abolmaali has been awarded a $155,000 grant through Bekaert, a global leader in drawn steel wire products, for the project. The grant calls for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Society for Testing and Materials to review design specifications based on UT Arlington’s findings. The work is expected to lead to new design and construction standards in the United States.

Abolmaali said similar construction standards calling for mixing steel fibers in concrete pipes already have been adopted in Europe.

Nur Yazdani, chair of the UT Arlington Department of Civil Engineering, said Abolmaali’s work is a game-changer in the industry.

“With infrastructures aging in this country, it’s important for engineers to improve upon what we’ve done in the past,” Yazdani said.

The pipes – which range in size from one foot to six feet in diameter – are cast for infrastructure use such as bridge supports, water transport and sewer conveyance, among other things.

A cement pipe with steel fibers.

Doctoral student Alena Mikhaylova is shown with the first steel fiber reinforced concrete pipe in the United States.

Bekaert spends a lot of time searching for new solutions with global partners like Abolmaali, company spokesman T.R. Kunesh said.

“Steel fiber reinforced concrete pipe is the norm in the rest of the world so it is critical that we have the same superior quality concrete pipe for U.S. infrastructure needs,” Kunesh said. “This cutting edge testing program at UT Arlington will open doors to many other transportation applications including bridges, drainage and utility structures making our streets and highways safer.”

Abolmaali said the new anticipated new construction standards would eliminate the need of steel-mesh cages placed inside the form of the cement pipes, thus making the pipe manufacturing process less expensive and less labor intensive.

More testing and evaluation will be required once the new standards are adopted, Abolmaali said. Industry leaders including Hansen Pipe, Rinker Materials, Northern Concrete Pip and Sherman-Dixie Industries are conducting the entire pipe manufacturing for the grant for free, he said.

“This is really exciting research.  Concrete pipe has long been the standard for strength and durability,” said Pete DeLay, chief executive officer for Sherman-Dixie. “With the technology available to us today through improved mix designs and the use of steel fiber reinforcement, we believe that we can develop new standards and design characteristics for concrete pipe that will provide phenomenal long-term performance at a lower cost."

The fact that so many pipe manufacturers are joining in the program speaks to the acceptance of the industry, Abolmaali said.

Pranesh Aswath, professor in material science & engineering; Simon Chao, assistant professor in civil engineering; and Tri Le, post-doctoral associate in civil engineering; are co-principal investigators on the project.

Abolmaali’s research is representative of the cutting-edge innovation taking place 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.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.