SOUTHFIELD — Gov. Rick Snyder visited the Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) July 16 at a private event at Lawrence Technological University to discuss with MDOT the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) in bridges.
Present at the meeting were MDOT Director Kirk Steudle, MDOT staff, and LTU’s Dean of Engineering, Nabil Grace, who provided the governor with information on the bridge that is being built using CFRP on Eight Mile Road in Southfield.
The rebar and cables inside the concrete of the bridge are made of carbon fiber instead of steel, which decreases corrosion and bridge deterioration, according to MDOT.
“A large number of bridges needed to be replaced yesterday,” said Grace. “We can’t use same materials, otherwise we’ll have the same problems.”
Michigan roads and bridges experience corrosion and deterioration from de-icing salts, which damage the steel used in common bridges. CFRP is corrosion-free.
“The idea behind this is very simple,” Grace said. “We’d like to have infrastructure that does not have corrosion, won’t collapse, will not experience the falling of concrete.”
The design and specifications of the bridge were based on research conducted at CIMR, which was led by Grace. CIMR houses a laboratory for the research, development and testing of carbon fiber composite materials
“When you walk in there, it’s like a candy store,” Grace said. “We’ve been playing with all these toys, and we wanted to share them with the governor.”
Also present at the meeting were representatives from Tokyo Rope, a Japanese company that supplied the carbon-fiber for the new bridge.
According to LTU’s website, The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has committed $3 million to Tokyo Rope for the construction of a carbon-fiber manufacturing facility to be built in Michigan.
“If that happens, then the price of carbon fiber will go down and make it more affordable,” said Eric Pope, managing editor of LTU’s University News Bureau.
Pope said the meeting was originally planned as a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the bridge was not completed in time for the governor’s visit.