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Testing Composite Structures for Stronger Bridges

The J. Lohr Structures Laboratory at South Dakota State University helps companies develop new materials and products — self-consolidating concrete columns and pre-stress concrete bridge girders — that bridge a physical gap. Over the past decade, researchers have conducted structural testing on large- and full-scale test specimens for private companies and government entities.

Research at the structure lab also helps South Dakota companies develop transportation products, such as bridge girders, that are then used for public works projects. The lab evaluated the performance of six 40-foot pre-stressed concrete bridge girders, each weighing 18 tons. Tests showed that the self-consolidating girders performed equal to or better than conventional concrete girders.

For a 2013 project, graduate student Todd Pauly determined that bridge columns made of self-consolidating concrete can be used in regions that experience earthquakes. Last fall, graduate student Brett Tigges began evaluating the effectiveness of a concrete wall poured between two bridge columns in preventing bridge failure that might occur if a semi-truck crashed at high speed into the bridge column.

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