Purdue researcher Luna Lu developed the technology, which is now being tested on I-35 in Hillsboro. [Purdue University photo: Rebecca McElhoe]
Sensor tech that allows concrete to “talk” is now being tested on a stretch of I-35 in Hillsboro—and if the test is successful, it could change testing methods the construction industry has used for over 100 years.
The tech has been in development since 2017 at Purdue University in Indiana, led by researcher Luna Lu. When it’s embedded into a concrete pour, the sensor can send data about the concrete’s strength and potential repair needs more accurately than methods that are now being used, Lu’s team says.
Instead of relying on concrete samples to estimate when newly poured concrete is mature enough for traffic to drive on it, engineers can monitor the fresh concrete directly through the sensor tech.
An early prototype of the sensor was embedded on highways in Indiana, before the tech began being tested on highways in Texas.
Why North Texas was chosen as a testing site
So why did Purdue’s research team choose North Texas as a testing site?
Because the Lone Star State is “leading other states in terms of the innovation of transportation,” Lu told WFAA. She also said Texas’ large size and its room to expand sensors on highways led to Hillsboro having a stake in the possible future of concrete.
WFAA noted that the tech could eventually save taxpayers millions of dollars by, in Lu’s words, helping to “accelerate the construction schedule to about 30 to 35%.”
Additional states are expected to join as the study kicks off in the coming months.
Tech to hit market later this year
According to a Purdue University post, Lu’s technology is on track to hit the market later this year as the REBEL Concrete Strength Sensing System, a product of WaveLogix. Lu founded WaveLogix in 2021 to manufacture the technology on a larger scale. The company licenses the technology from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, which has applied for patent protection on the intellectual property.
“Traffic jams caused by infrastructure repairs have wasted 4 billion hours and 3 billion gallons of gas on a yearly basis,” Lu said in the post. “This is primarily due to insufficient knowledge and understanding of concrete’s strength levels.” Her tech aims to help reduce that waste—and potentially help cut carbon emissions globally.
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