Composites Manufacturing Magazine

Calgary Professor’s Bridge Material Research Could Save Cities Billions

Dr. Mamdouh El-Badry, a civil engineering professor at the University of Calgary, is working on research that explores the viability of GFRP-reinforced concrete as the primary material to make a “bridge of the future.” If the bridge performs as the professor says it will, it could potentially save cities like Calgary millions, if not billions, in construction and maintenance costs.

According to an article from the university’s UToday news outlet, Dr. El-Badry garnered support and backing of industry players like Armtec, PCL Construction, and Lafarge, which assisted in the production of sample prototypes for stress testing. UToday says El-Badry has shown his trellis-supported bridge has a lifespan of up to 150 years, compared to just 50 for current steel-and-concrete spans in use globally.

The article notes that the lack of metal that makes the bridge durable and corrosion resistant. With no steel skeleton to corrode, swell and deteriorate the concrete, El-Badry’s bridge is built to outlast current designs by a century.

The cost savings in maintenance alone would be significant for any city budget, but El-Badry’s team has also found his bridge, built on a lattice of concrete-filled fiberglass, is stronger and therefore cheaper to build than steel, as it requires less material and support to handle the same traffic.

El-Badry has said he would like to small pilot project to demonstrate the potential of the technology.

“Perhaps [engineers] could start with a pedestrian bridge so they could see first-hand how it is designed and how well it works,” says El-Badry. “The extensive research and laboratory testing we have done over the past 15 years should bring this hybrid system to fruition in practice with confidence. The system is robust and versatile, and its application to a variety of real bridges is long overdue.”

Currently, perhaps the most high-profile example of GFRP-reinforced concrete in a “real bridge” is the Nipigon River cable-stayed bridge in Northwest Ontario, which is the first of its kind in the Ontario highway system and the world’s first cable-stayed bridge with GFRP reinforced-concrete deck slabs. You can learn more about the Nipigon bridge in the next print edition of Composites Manufacturing.