By Edward Cardenas

SOUTHFIELD (CBS Detroit) – Gov. Rick Snyder recently visited the Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR) at Lawrence Technological University (LTU)  and learned about a process which could extend the life of bridges to last  100 years.

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The Michigan Department of Transportation is utilizing technology pioneered by LTU to build a bridge with no steel elements. The first bridge using carbon fiber reinforced polymer instead of steel in bridge decks.

This new technology is being utilized in a bridge under construction on Eight Mile over Plum Creek in Southfield. The design and specifications for this bridge, which uses no steel to reinforce the structure, was based on research led by LTU’s Dean of Engineering Nabil Grace and the school’s research teams.

“The predicted result is a bridge system that will last twice as long as most bridges now in service with minimum repair work or reconstruction and a significant reduction in the long-term burden on taxpayers,” Grace said in a release.

Unlike reinforced steel in bridge decks, which are subject to corrosion caused by de-icing salts, the  carbon fiber reinforced polymers are corrosion free, according to MDOT.

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Tokyo Rope Manufacturing Co. representatives visited the job site to see their product in place. MDOT crews are close to reopening 8 Mile Road and putting the carbon fiber bridge into use. LTU will monitor the performance of the carbon fiber.

Snyder met with representatives of Tokyo Rope, the Japanese company that supplied the CFRP materials for the bridge, during his visit to Lawrence Tech. During the visit, Snyder stated the research is producing “the bridges of the future,” according to a release.

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.

Additionally, Lawrence Tech has received contracts to study the new technology including:

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  • An MDOT contract of about $690,000 is funding a four-year study at LTU to evaluate the long-term capacity and durability of CFRP pre-stressing and post-tensioning strands under various conditions,
  • Another MDOT contract of $390,000 will fund a seven-year project to collect, analyze and review data from the bridges that have been built with CFRP materials as well as information and literature from other sources on this type of bridge construction,
  • Lawrence Tech also has a $349,000 research contract from the Federal Highway Administration using pooled funds from the state transportation departments of Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan,
  • The National Science Foundation has provided the LTU research team with about $340,000 in funding to support other CFRP-related investigations.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but we are confident that our research here at Lawrence Tech will produce design guidelines for sustainable bridges that will still be in service in the next century,” Grace said in a release.