innovation magazine spring 2012 - governor praises lawrence tech

Governor praises Lawrence Tech for innovative research on carbon fiber 


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder chose Lawrence Tech’s Center of Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) as an appropriate setting for a major address on the state’s infrastructure in October 2011.


Gov. Rick Snyder at Lawrence Tech
Gov. Rick Snyder chose Lawrence Tech as an appropriate setting for his message about Michigan's infrastructure. (Photo by John Stormzand/South Oakland Eccentric)

Media representatives, government officials, and industry leaders filled CIMR to hear Snyder outline the problems caused by the $1.4 billion shortfall in infrastructure investment identified by a bipartisan legislative report. Possible solutions he suggested included a streamlined gasoline tax and higher vehicle registration fees.

Prior to the speech, Dean of Engineering Nabil Grace gave Snyder a tour of CIMR to show him some of Lawrence Tech’s groundbreaking research on innovative materials to replace steel rebar used to reinforce concrete in bridge structures.

Carbon fiber is more expensive than steel, although the cost difference would be reduced if Tokyo Rope, the Japanese company that supplies carbon fiber rebar to Lawrence Tech, builds a plant in the United States.

Grace accompanied Snyder on a trade mission to Japan earlier in the year, and Snyder and Tokyo Rope signed an agreement to explore the possibility of locating a plant in Michigan.

In his speech at Lawrence Tech, Snyder said Grace’s research on carbon fiber could have a dramatic impact on Michigan’s economy. “Dr. Grace and his team have done truly wonderful research… that hopefully will bring companies to Michigan and truly bring innovation to transportation,” the governor said.




Michigan begins using carbon fiber for highway bridge reconstruction

Last year the Michigan Department of Transportation used a major renovation project on a Detroit freeway to experiment with carbon fiber in the reconstruction of a bridge, and the new approach will be repeated this summer on a three-span bridge in the city of Jackson.

The engineering specifications for using carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) materials in place of steel were developed at Lawrence Tech’s Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) Tech under the direction of Dean of Engineering Nabil Grace.

“We are partnering with Lawrence Technological University on this initiative in which carbon fiber is used instead of steel to prevent corrosion while maintaining the same strength and durability,” said MDOT Metro Region Engineer Tony Kratofil. 

The Pembroke Avenue bridge in Detroit was rebuilt with CFRP materials replacing steel for three major components:

  • The transverse post-tensioning cables that tie together the box beams of the bridge’s main supporting structure.
  • Reinforcement of the bridge’s concrete deck slab.
  • Reinforcement of the concrete barriers on each side of the road bed.

Grace’s research was first put to the test in 2001 on a bridge to an industrial park a few miles from Lawrence Tech. One lane was constructed with steel and the other with CFRP materials.

Every six months Lawrence Tech shares performance data with state and federal officials, and so far the CFRP components are performing as expected.

A bridge with CFRP materials developed at Lawrence Tech has also been built in Maine.