Researchers from Clemson University, in collaboration with Purdue University and PSI Inc., have received a four-year $1.1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration to better understand the challenges facing the durability of concrete infrastructure and to develop new test methods to address them.

Clemson associate professor of civil engineering Prasad Rangaraju says the research could have a widespread effect on how various agencies build or rebuild concrete infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, with a potential to save millions or even billions of dollars down the line.

"Here at Clemson we will study alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in concrete," said Rangaraju. "This is a durability problem that arises due to incompatibility between ingredients that make up concrete. How the ingredients in concrete interact with each other, as well as with the environment they serve in, determines a lot about how long materials will last in the elements. Improper selection of raw materials that are used in concrete can result in ASR distress."

Rangaraju says that once the alkali-silica reaction affects a concrete structure, it is difficult to repair the concrete and it can cost several million dollars in the process. As part of the research study, Rangaraju and his graduate students aim to develop a better test method than existing procedures to evaluate ingredients in concrete material to minimize or even prevent the occurrence of alkali-silica reaction distress in concrete construction.