Bendable Concrete Utilized on a Bridge Deck (Engineered Cementitious Composite or ECC)

Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

A major source of bridge deterioration requiring constant maintenance is mechanical expansion joints installed between adjacent simple span bridge decks. This project utilized patented U-M developed ultra-high ductility “bendable concrete” in a bridge deck over I-94 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The concrete is not only durable but also self-repairing.

Infrastructure Theme Mobility Theme
  • Principal Investigators

    Victor C. Li, PhD

  • Other Contributors

    Michigan Department of Transportation

    Mike Lepech

    Greg Keoleian

Funding Source

Michigan Department of Transportation

About the Project

Since the Industrial Revolution and the invention of Portland cement by British bricklayer Joseph Aspdin in 1824, concrete has evolved into the most important construction material to support quality of life in modern society.

In 1889, the Lake Alvord Bridge, the first reinforced concrete bridge in the United States, was built in San Francisco. The first concrete street in the United States was built in 1891 in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

 

Fabrication of concrete is a multistage process that uses considerable energy. The binder in the majority of concrete, Portland cement, is made by grinding together limestone (for its calcium content) and clay (for its silicon content) into powder, then heating the mixture in a kiln to more than 1,450 degrees Celsius. At such high temperatures, the molecules from each material diffuse into each other, in a process called sintering. The resulting solid pieces, called clinker, are then ground again with other trace materials. To make concrete, cement is mixed with an aggregate—such as gravel and sand—to give it structure, then water is added.

 

Standard concrete is brittle and will crack under tension. For concrete construction, brittleness is also synonymous with cracks and deterioration. Over the past two decades, University of Michigan researcher, Victor Li, has developed a ductile concrete known as Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC), popularly known as “bendable concrete.” The primary reason for ECC’s high performance is the ability of it to strain-harden under uniaxial tension while forming diffused microcracks. ECC has an ultimate strain capacity typically over 4% which is over 400 times that of normal concrete!

 

Within the United States, a major source of bridge deterioration requiring constant maintenance are mechanical expansion joints installed between adjacent simple span bridge decks used to control deck cracking when the bridge span is subjected to expansion and contraction due to temperature cycles. Bridge deck cracking allows salt and water to contact reinforcing steel, thereby causing corrosion through steel oxidation and concrete cover spalling, and ultimately leading to structural failure. Typical to many regional and state departments of transportation within the US, the State of Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has actively sought engineered and constructed solutions to the expansion joint problem.

 

An ECC, “bendable concrete”, demonstration project, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation, was completed during summer 2005 on the Grove Street Bridge crossing I-94 in Ypsilanti, MI. The 225 mm thick ECC link measured 5.5 m by 20.25 m. Construction included 25.5 m3 of ECC, delivered on-site by standard ready-mix concrete trucks from a nearby batching plant. Construction of the demonstration bridge took place in two phases to allow for continued use of the bridge during construction.

 

Now, nearly 15 years after this ECC link slab was installed, the performance of this link slab remains unchanged showing little sign of traditional wear. With further long-term performance monitoring and additional demonstration experience, ECC link slab can be an effective replacement of conventional expansion joints resulting in significantly reduced bridge deck maintenance needs.

Related Projects

Using-Technology-Keep-Seniors-Safe-1
Health Theme Infrastructure Theme Social Theme

Using Technology to Keep Seniors Safe

Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

Using wearable-based technology to help seniors stay mobile and age in place, while avoiding exposure to falls and environmental risks or hazards.

Learn More
Remote-Sensing-1
Infrastructure Theme

Remote Sensing Techniques for Highway Retaining Walls

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Structural monitoring of highway retaining walls using remote sensing techniques to assess performance and prioritize infrastructure investments.

Learn More
GLWA-Real-Time-1
Infrastructure Theme Water Theme

Southeast Michigan Real-Time Stormwater Control

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Application of real-time sensing and dynamic control on existing wastewater infrastructure to reduce the frequency and volume of Combined Sewer Overflows.

Learn More
Mapping Detroit’s Digital Divide
Infrastructure Theme Mobility Theme Social Theme

Mapping Detroit’s Digital Divide

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Mapping detailed geographies of digital access and exclusion across Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Learn More
Uber-Lyft-New-Transportation-Options-1
Mobility Theme

Uber, Lyft, and New Transportation Options

Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Studying rideshare options like Lyft and Uber, with special focus on individuals with limited transportation choices.

Learn More
Improving-Public-Transportation-1
Mobility Theme Social Theme

Improving Public Transportation

Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

Collecting travel data to help Benton Harbor improve travel options for residents, with the goal of increased employment participation and retention.

Learn More
Increasing-Mobility-1
Mobility Theme

Increasing Mobility in Benton Harbor

Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

Facilitating an on-demand, seamless, and efficient mobility service for the Benton Harbor community, especially among low-mobility families.

Learn More
Connecting-Mobility-Social-Access-1
Mobility Theme Social Theme

Connecting Mobility and Social Access

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Rethinking how transit infrastructure can expand access to food, health, learning, and mobility services by creating multimodal hubs.

Learn More
Energy-Savings-01
Energy Theme Mobility Theme Social Theme

Energy Savings through Integrated Personalized, Real-time Traveler Information and Incentive Scheme

Washington DC-Baltimore, Metropolitan Downtown Area, USA

The project aims to reduce energy use of vehicular travels by incentivizing individual travelers to adjust travel choices and driving behaviors.

Learn More