Strengthening Arctic assets

Strengthening Arctic assets

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DoD awards $3.4M to Engineering, CREATES team for infrastructure research

Funded by a $3.4 million U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) grant, Rowan University will provide support for U.S. Army initiatives in the stark Arctic region more than 2,600 miles away from the main campus in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Dr. Yusuf Mehta, a civil and environmental engineering professor in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering and director of the Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES) (See video here), will lead a team on his project “Innovative Construction Materials to Protect National Security Interests in the Arctic Region.” The $3.4 million award is the largest ever made to a researcher on Rowan’s main campus.

Expanding partnership

This award represents an expansion of the successful partnership between Rowan’s CREATES and the Army Corps of Engineer’s Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL).

Jared Oren, CRREL program manager working under the advisement of ERDC Military Engineering Technical Director Nick Boone, said, “We are excited to rapidly expand Rowan’s successful work from 2017 into this larger, new set of activities. Rowan has consistently provided innovative solutions so far, and this expanded effort will ensure that we further develop a combination of expeditionary and long-term durable cold regions infrastructure capabilities.”

Rowan’s research team includes Mehta; co-principal investigator Dr. Ayman Ali, CREATES manager; collaborators Drs. Doug Cleary, Will Riddell and Gilson Lomboy, civil and environmental engineering professors; post-doctorate associates; and undergraduate and graduate students. They will focus on complementing and building on innovative and cost-effective methods the DoD has been developing to support U.S. interests in the Arctic and other cold regions.

Improving capabilities

Rowan and ERDC’s joint research is intended to improve the DoD’s ability to rapidly project and sustain capabilities in the Arctic and other cold regions environments as part of an overall strategy that improves national security and homeland security interests. At the same time, Rowan and ERDC are targeting ways to leverage these DoD infrastructure innovations at the state transportation level. By adopting a variety of materials, construction process and modeling innovations emerging from this research, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and other DOTs throughout the Northeast will be able to improve their own transportation infrastructure.

For some of the research projects being developed, Rowan’s team will use CREATES’ Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS), the sole such device at a college or university in the Northeast United States. The $4 million machine, housed at CREATES through a cooperative research and development agreement with CRREL, can simulate decades of vehicular traffic on highways and airplane runways in less than half a year while controlling temperature and other environmental conditions. Results of these simulations can be used to determine the long-term effects of wear and tear on roadways and airstrips and to evaluate the potential of new materials and how they will hold up under various climates and conditions. CREATES also features indoor and outdoor testing environments for various clients that can be designated for specific types of materials, such as asphalt, concrete, soils and other construction materials.

Researching construction materials

Mehta said, “We are very excited to conduct cutting-edge research in construction materials for the Department of Defense-Army Corps of Engineers. The research from these projects will add to the body of knowledge that is needed to strengthen infrastructure in a variety of cold regions. This project also will provide hands-on research experience for several post-doctoral associates and graduate and undergraduate students.”

The award builds on the growing research initiatives at Rowan, which last year topped $39 million in sponsored programs. Dr. Beena Sukumaran, vice president for Research at Rowan, said, “This Department of Defense award illustrates the growth of Rowan’s research capabilities, which now extend to the Arctic. This is not just a large investment by the federal government in our institution for an area of national security and need; it is also an affirmation of the caliber of work our researchers do.”

“Our South Jersey institutions are conducting world-class engineering projects, and I’m proud of the research being conducted right here at Rowan University,” said Congressman Donald Norcross. “Thanks to this funding, our local engineers will be supporting our military, improving our country’s infrastructure and enhancing our national security. I supported this agreement because I know our bright South Jersey professors and students will deliver trailblazing results for this far-reaching project.”