By adding carbon fiber to concrete mixture, a slab of concrete is able to conduct electricity. "Smart concrete" has many potential applications, including helping structural engineers to identify trouble spots in a concrete structure long before stress or cracking is visible to the human eye. Find out more in this Special Report video.
Credit: NBC Learn, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation
The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport (CBET) Systems of the Directorate for Engineering supports innovative research and education in the fields of chemical engineering, biotechnology, bioengineering, and environmental engineering, and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.
The mission of the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) in NSF's Directorate for Engineering is to fund fundamental research and education in support of the foundation's strategic goals directed at advances in the disciplines of civil, mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, and materials design. In addition, the division has a focus on the reduction of risks and damage resulting from earthquakes and other natural and technological hazards.
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Pig farmers around the world have a major complaint and it involves the ever-present challenge of what to do with the nearly 43 billion gallons of pig excrement, or manure, that is generated every year.
Haifang Wen, assistant professor of Civil Engineering in the Washington State University (WSU) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has developed a technology to substitute restaurant cooking oil for the crude oil used traditionally in the production of asphalt, creating a sustainable bioasphalt that looks and handles just like its petroleum-based counterpart.
NSF's Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program teaches participants to identify valuable, high-tech product and market opportunities that can arise from their engineering and science research discoveries and inventions. I-Corps is one of several ways in which NSF feeds the nation's innovation ecosystem. The agency invests in basic research in all fields of science and engineering to enhance U.S. competitiveness. Complementing its investment in basic research, NSF supports a suite of programs to transition research advances with real-world applications potential.
June 27, 2016
Pig manure paves road to sustainable asphalt
Engineers are road testing their new swine bioadhesive as possible replacement for petroleum
A new replacement for petroleum is coming from an unlikely source -- pig manure! It turns out that pig waste is particularly rich in oils that are very similar to petroleum. And while these oils are too low grade to produce gasoline, they may still work where the rubber meets the road.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), civil engineer Ellie Fini and a team at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCA&T) State University have designed a sticky binder made from pig manure that can be used to make asphalt. At a cost of 56 cents per gallon to process, this new bioadhesive is a much less expensive binder than petroleum, and, so far, it's been standing up to rigorous testing.
In fact, Fini and her partners have filed patents on the technology and set up a company called Bio-Adhesive Alliance, with the vision of providing a win-win solution for farmers and the construction industry. Anything in the manure that stinks is filtered out during the processing, and the farmers can use the leftovers for fertilizer. So, nothing about the idea stinks!
The path from lab discovery to commercialization began with the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) project, during which the research team partnered with Mahour Parast, an assistant professor of technology management at NCA&T. Parast assisted the team in reaching a more detailed understanding of technical viability and potential marketability of the technology, as well as the complexity of the supply chain. In addition to interviews with potential customers, such as hog farmers and asphalt companies, the team also spoke with regulators and policy makers. "During I-Corps we also realized that there are many potential applications for this technology, in addition to asphalt," says Parast, who has been serving as president of Bio-Adhesive Alliance since its incorporation in 2013. "The continued support from NSF has been instrumental in helping us bring this innovation to its fullest potential commercially."
This research was supported by several grants from the NSF Directorate for Engineering, including a grant from the NSF I-Corps program, which prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broadens the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects.
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