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WSU, MSU have concrete ideas for better roads, bridges

April 22, 2013

New spinout companies from Michigan State University and Wayne State University are applying to the federal Small Business Innovation Research program this year to fund their different approaches to maintaining roads and bridges. Hwai-Chung Wu, associate professor at Wayne State and president of startup Reinforcement Innovations LLC, said his company incorporated last year out of more recent research that is evolving quickly. Testing about 18 months ago showed promising results on concrete columns that use a hybrid composite reinforcement instead of traditional steel reinforcements, he said -- the concrete didn't crack or speckle like steel-reinforced columns often do, and didn't compress as much. Wu's technology has applications for bridges and buildings, as well as precast concrete slabs and panels, building boards, concrete roofing tiles, concrete beams and trusses. Wayne State has a pending patent application for the reinforcement design and a method of applying it to structures. "The upfront material cost is somewhat higher than steel, but the maintenance cost over time becomes less because the strength of the structure it creates will make maintenance much less frequent," Wu said. "And there's no steel corrosion involved, because there's no steel."