Civil Engineering Professors Receive $280,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Innovative research will improve support structures and highway facilities constructed on soft or loose soil

EASTON, Pa.- October 20, 2009 — Muhannad Suleiman and Anne Raich, assistant professors, and Steve Kurtz, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, have received a $279,275 National Science Foundation grant to research the use of pervious concrete in foundations supporting structures and highway facilities constructed on poor soil.

According to Suleiman, when a bridge, embankment, or other structure is planned for an area with soft or loose soil, it is necessary to first improve the ground to make it more stable. One common technique is to use permeable granular piles, which improve stability and provide a drainage path. However, granular piles have low stiffness and strength, which are also dependent on the properties of surrounding soil. Therefore, granular piles have limited use in very soft soils.

The research will focus on pervious concrete piles, which provide significantly higher stiffness and strength while offering permeability comparable to granular piles for drainage purposes. Pervious concrete piles can also improve the behavior of different structures subjected to earthquake loading.

Experimental and analytical research will be conducted in Lafayette’s new Soil-Structure Interaction Facility, which is funded by a $222,487 National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant. The research will involve developing pervious concrete mixtures for ground improvement applications and studying the effects of different construction procedures on soil and pile properties.

At least four students will be involved in the research. As they work on the project, the students will gain knowledge in pervious concrete material and its properties, foundation engineering and ground improvement alternatives, and significant testing experience using advanced sensors and instrumentation.

Suleiman received a grant from the Lindback Foundation in June 2008 for a related project that involved designing a sustainable pavement system of pervious materials.