Lt. Gov. Gilchrist calls LTU research center 'incredible' after visit
SOUTHFIELD—Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II got a first-hand look at the latest advanced technologies in bridge construction Friday during a visit to the Nabil F. Grace Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) at Lawrence Technological University.
The visit focused on LTU’s research into using carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) strands in concrete highway bridges instead of steel bars—research conducted for more than 20 years by Nabil Grace, dean of the LTU College of Engineering, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation, other state DOTs, and the federal government.
The research has shown that the CFRP material is stronger than steel and doesn’t rust. It’s more expensive than steel initially, but LTU and state officials say it can result in bridges that last 100 years with minimal maintenance, saving money in the long run. MDOT has built more than a dozen of the bridges across Michigan as test projects, and the research at LTU has resulted in national standards for using the material in bridge construction.
Also present for the visit was Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer for the MDOT and director of its Bureau of Bridges and Structures. He told Gilchrist of the CFRP bridges: “The infrastructure that we build right now, the next generation will benefit.” Chynoweth also noted that the bridges’ longer lifespans is a safety benefit: “The fewer work zones we have, the more safety we have.”
Gilchrist, an engineer himself—he earned a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan College of Engineering in 1995—also spoke with LTU undergraduate students involved in the research. “It’s incredible,” Gilchrist said of the CIMR and its work. “It’s an illustration of not only the expertise that exists in Michigan, but the willingness for us to push boundaries. This is about meeting the infrastructure needs of today and tomorrow. And it’s inspiring to see this research being driven by undergraduate students—it’s an example of what Michigan has to offer the world.”
LTU’s CIMR features several environmental chambers to test the limits of materials, including: a fire-testing chamber 22 feet long, 10 feet high and eight feet wide capable of heating materials up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit; a 3,600-cubic-foot environmental test chamber capable of temperatures of -90F to 180F that simulates rain, sun, freezing rain, and humidity; and devices that push, pull, twist, and strain materials to determine their breaking point. More at www.ltu.edu/cimr/.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 100 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.
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