Research & Innovation

Stevens Institute of Technology Engineering Professor Cements Deal With NJDOT

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has tapped Weina Meng to help mend an aging bridge with a more durable and cost-effective concrete mixture.

Concrete being poured

(Hoboken, N.J. – Jan. 10, 2022) – In her lab at Stevens Institute of Technology, Weina Meng has no problem whipping up a small batch ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) in a mortar mixer. But thanks to a new partnership with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Meng is going bigger.

“The ‘scale-up’ step is essential,” Meng said. “As researchers, we always want our research outcomes to be implemented on a grander scale.”

UHPC is a lighter, more durable concrete that can withstand external forces and environmental changes for a century. Whereas the average lifespan of bridges constructed with structural concrete is 50 to 70 years. The main issue is that large-scale production of UHPC is expensive, but Meng has discovered how to use local materials to give concrete that same durability and mechanical properties, but at a much lower cost. She calls this mixture NJ UHPC.

In her lab at Stevens, Meng mixes her own NJ UHPC and can test it to see how it will perform under different loading and environmental conditions. This allows for Meng to understand how her concrete will perform during winter, spring, summer, and fall in New Jersey and how that information can be translated to different climates across the United States, from Florida to North Dakota.

“To test the durability, we check that the microstructure of the material is dense enough,” Meng said. “In our lab, we are capable of measuring the pore structure, corrosion resistance, and freeze-thawing resistance to make sure they meet industry standards.”

In collaboration with Rutgers University and NJDOT, Meng is now working to ensure the NJ UHPC formulas and mixtures can be produced on a mass scale. Once those production challenges are resolved, she will train staff at participating concrete plants. NJDOT will then select an aging bridge and the developed NJ UHPC will be applied.

“This recognition gives significant meaning to our time and efforts in developing NJ UHPC,” Meng said. “We have clearer direction on how to successfully implement a new product to real applications. This partnership greatly helps our labs at Stevens and can elevate our reputation within other government and construction agencies, providing us with more opportunity.”

The bridge location will be decided as early as April, and once selected, the NJ UHPC will be monitored for its structural performance for up to two years. The end goal is to help promote innovative materials and state-of-the-art technologies to NJDOT staff, engineers, and beyond. 

Across the country, there are 45,000 bridges in disrepair and according to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. is ranked 13th in the world in infrastructure. In President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, he pledged to fix thousands of those aging bridges and NJ UHPC has the potential to play a role.

“Our hope is that the implementation of our NJ UHPC will be successful so that our product can be used in bridges in our state and across the country,” Meng said.

– Stevens –

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, New Jersey. Since our founding in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark of Stevens’ education and research. Within the university’s three schools and one college, 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate closely with faculty in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment. Academic and research programs spanning business, computing, engineering, the arts and other disciplines actively advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront our most pressing global challenges. The university continues to be consistently ranked among the nation’s leaders in career services, post-graduation salaries of alumni, and return on tuition investment.

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