Dr. Brahim Benmokrane is a National Science Engineering Research Chair (NSERC) and professor of Innovative FRP Composite Materials for Infrastructure in the department of Civil Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, located in Sherbrooke, Canada. He obtained his engineering degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, Switzerland and his Ph.D. in civil engineering from University of Sherbrooke. He has been involved in the design, construction, and monitoring of seven bridges built in Canada and U.S. with concrete deck slabs reinforced with FRP reinforcing bars.
How did you first get involved with composites?
I’ve been working with composites materials for approximately 23 years. I really concentrated in the area of FRP reinforcements for concrete structures, looking mainly to replace steel rebar with FRP composites rebar due to the corrosion problem we have in Canada with bridges and parking garages. We’re convinced that using innovative FRP reinforcements will save billions of dollars per year by building new structures with longer service lives and with reduced maintenance costs.
How did FRP materials advance in the infrastructure market?
The composites industry has put in a tremendous effort in terms of developing innovative materials and products with very good quality control. At the beginning of my research in the late 1980s and early 90s, I was concentrating on the long term viability of FRP rebar with glass fibers. Among the types of fibers being used in FRP for civil engineering applications we have glass fibers, carbon fibers and aramid fibers. The civil engineering department was looking for a type of material that could be in contact with concrete and there was concern that glass fibers, by far the cheapest composite material, would break down in an alkaline environment. However, after several research studies focused on the long term durability of FRP composites in an alkaline solution under stress, we concluded that this type of material could be used safely in concrete structures. Now in Canada and the U.S. we have bridge decks being reinforced with this kind of GFRP rebar.
How does the advancement of codes and designs impact the industry?
I’ve personally been involved in helping the industry design guides and codes. We have design codes in Canada related the reinforcement of bridges called the CSA6 code, (equivalent to the ASHTO code in the U.S.) and also the CSA S806 for building components in parking garages and other structures (equivalent to the ACI 441R document in the U.S.) We wanted any product in the field to be certified in terms of manufacturing process, physical properties, long term end-life properties and also mechanical properties. By having these codes, end users and engineers are now gaining confidence to use FRP products in structures. The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and especially John Busel, ACMA’s director of composites growth initiative, has completed the difficult task of creating design codes with the industry and engineers. It was one of the reasons we awarded John Busel during the 4th International Conference (CCDC) for his contribution for advancements of FRP and civil engineering applications.