Research Projects

Nondestructive monitoring and testing of support below runways In Reserve

We are researching a capability for non-destructive, very low-cost monitoring of subbase conditions below runways (as well as other transportation infrastructure). We are seeking a test location (airport, for example) to validate our work.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Airport runways, together with highways, railways, and levees (dikes) all consist of carefully designed and built layers which ultimately rest on an earthen subbase. Over time, erosion, nearby construction, weather, seismic activity, and other causes can weaken or create gaps in the subbase. Initially there is no sign of this on the surface, until a collapse suddenly occurs. This collapse entails expenses for immediate repair, and direct and indirect costs to the surrounding communities due to disruption of transport and damage to buildings. In some cases there can be environmental damage or human casualties.

At present there is no practical way to monitor the condition of the earthen subbase. We have invented a "smart" material which can be embedded during construction or reconstruction, and which provides an easy-to-use and inexpensive means to verify the integrity of the subbase.

We have filed a non-provisional patent application with the U.S. Patent Office and with non-U.S. patent offices. Initial research results (presented in August 2014 at the Smart Materials and Surfaces conference in Bangkok) support the practicality of this technology. A working prototype has been created, and the technology has been lab-tested using realistic pavement materials. Now we need a place, and funding, to actually build it under a runway or taxiway.

Idea No. 46