|CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING|
CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING
REDUCING DAMAGE IN HOME FIRES
A lifetime of fire research really hit home for Steve Cramer early one morning in the spring of 1992. The professor woke to the smell of smoke: a small appliance in his children's bedroom was on fire. Cramer rushed his family to safety then extinguished the flames.
"You get a different technical perspective when it happens to you," Cramer said.
The experience makes him even more passionate when it comes to his research. Cramer recently embarked on a project to reduce the estimated 4,000 deaths, 17,000 injuries and $6 billion in property damage caused each year by home fires.
The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will develop guidelines for improving construction using gypsum drywall, a fire resistant material used in homes and smaller commercial buildings.
"When gypsum heats up, it chemically releases moisture, and the energy created by the fire's heat drives that moisture to the surface," said Cramer. "This process delays the fire's effects, protecting the structure. Finding a way to keep the gypsum attached to walls and ceilings longer would provide an important delay in the destruction caused by a fire."
GROUNDBREAKING SOIL STABILIZATION RESEARCH
Professors Craig Benson and Tuncer Edil don't spend much time behind their desks. You have a better chance of locating them on a construction site, building environmentally safe and cost-effective roadbeds.
Edil and Benson are currently testing the effect of fly ash on ground water at a road construction site in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. The contractors mixed fly ash, a powdery material that is created by burning coal, into the moist soil to stabilize it for roadbed construction. Because fly ash is a waste product that might be sent to landfills if not used, it's relatively inexpensive and ecologically sound.
"Fly ash contains heavy metals and other chemicals," said Benson. "But will any of these contaminate groundwater?"
This experiment will answer that question by analyzing water samples collected from a lysimeter-equipped tank under the fly ash-fortified road.
"We want to show fly ash stabilization is an efficient and cost-effective method of constructing roadbeds over poor soils which cover 60 percent of Wisconsin," said Edil. "If we can stabilize soil with fly ash, it saves money and natural resources."
CONSTRUCTING A NOVEL BRIDGE DECK
Professors Larry Bank, Mike Oliva and Jeffrey Russell are making plans for the first full-size composite material reinforced bridge deck. A grant from the Federal Highway Administration Innovative Bridge Research and Construction (IBRC) program will provide funds to test, design and construct Wisconsin's first bridge deck reinforced entirely with non-metallic, fiber-reinforced plastic composite materials.