Volume XII / 2023
The University of Texas at Arlington | College of Engineering
Fracture pattern of a cylindrical concrete specimen subjected to uniaxial compression and a nanoscale 3d image reconstruction of a concrete specimen using X-ray nanocomputed tomography

Cleaner Concrete

Every day, millions of people walk and drive on concrete without a second thought. Maria Konsta-Gdoutos, in contrast, looks at concrete and sees ways she can improve it.

The civil engineering professor received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to create the Tier 1 University Transportation Center for Durable and Resilient Transportation Infrastructure at UTA. Her goal is to develop a new age of greener and more energy-efficient concrete with 30% lower costs, targeting a 50% extended lifetime and negative-net greenhouse gas emissions in transportation infrastructure.

Maria Konsta-Gdoutos

"This research will spearhead a holistic program to revitalize the nation's transportation infrastructure," Dr. Konsta-Gdoutos says.

"The center will drive the development of standard guidelines for the formulation and deployment of the next generation of resilient and durable construction materials."

The project involves a consortium of researchers from UTA, Howard University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Oregon State University, Purdue University, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez.

During their work, researchers will have access to an advanced atomic microscopy system that provides necessary data to design greener concrete and engineer its nanostructure and properties. UTA is the only university to have this tool, which allows users to see the nanostructure of concrete through topographical imaging, then identify the chemical phases and composition of materials at the atomic and nanoscale.

In addition, the researchers will use a state-of-the-art X-ray nanoscale-computed tomography system for sub-250 nanometer 3D imaging and non-destructive scanning and reconstruction of the concrete's internal nano- and microstructure. This analysis will allow them to create advanced structural retrofitting and repair solutions for existing infrastructure and develop carbon-neutral materials and renewable-energy-related technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation infrastructure and alleviating urban heat islands.

"There are 3,233 miles of the 45,000-mile Interstate Highway System in Texas, and with more than 680,000 total road miles in the state, if the center can make roads less costly, more durable and greener, everyone wins," says Robert Hampshire, USDOT's deputy assistant secretary for research and technology.