Engineers at Iowa State University will try to destroy a bridge beam made out of a new type of concrete. Brent Phares of the I-S-U Center for Transportation Research and Education says it’s one of the last tests before moving forward to actually building a bridge with the new material. “Ultra high performance concrete is a very specialized, very engineered at the microscopic level type of concrete,” Phares says. It uses some of the same components in traditional concrete, but it has unique properties because of the materials that’re used that give it strength that is 10 to 20 times stronger than traditional concrete. He says along with its strength, the ultra high performance concrete is also very hard for water to penetrate. He says the water tends to bring salt from the winter time and that tends to degrade bridges. Phares says the new cement will cost more, but will says money over the long run. He says the strength of the bridge won’t be any stronger than a traditional bridge, but it does allow designers to use less material when building the bridge, which saves money. Phares says the test to snap the bridge beam will allow them to make some design changes so the D-O-T can move forward in using the material. “That’s one of the best parts of my job, is that we can build these things and really take them to their limit and see what they can do,” Phares says. He says normally engineers are pretty conservative, but when it comes to testing, they can break things and test them to their limit. Once today’s testing is done, engineers hope to use the cement to build a bridge in Wapello County. It would be the first bridge in the U-S using the special cement.
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