Research Activities: 2011

Polyurethane Foam Infill for Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Bridge Deck Panels

 Status Complete                      View Final Report: PDF
Sequential Number R302
Identification Number 00037417
Matching Research Agency Missouri University of Science & Technology, Civil Engineering
Principal Investigator Jeffery Volz
Assistant Professor
Missouri University of Science and Technology
331 Butler-Carlton Hall
Rolla, MO 65401
(573) 341-6280
Student Involvement

1 Graduate Research Assistant


Project Objective

The objective of the proposed research is to develop, test, and evaluate fiber-reinforced, polyurethane foams to replace the costly honeycomb construction currently used to manufacture FRP bridge deck panels.


Project Abstract

Although still in their infancy, fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) bridges have shown great promise in eliminating corrosion concerns and meeting (or exceeding) FHWA’s goal of 100-year life spans for bridges. While FRP bridges are cost-effective in terms of life cycle analyses, the combination of higher first costs and limited state DOT budgets has restricted their use. One area that has shown some headway is the use of FRP for bridge decks, focusing on the location where the majority of corrosion-related damage normally occurs. However, first costs still hamper widespread use of this approach.


FRP bridge deck panels offer superior corrosion resistance, at one-fifth the weight of reinforced concrete. However, current FRP bridge deck panels typically rely on an intricate geometric honeycomb system between the top and bottom layers of the sandwich panel. This labor-intensive honeycomb construction doubles the cost of FRP panels compared to reinforced concrete. Although cost-effective in terms of longevity of the bridge and overall reductions in weight, the lower first cost of reinforced concrete precludes the use of FRP bridge decks in the majority of situations.


Closed-cell, high-density polyurethane foams lower first cost, offering a cost-effective alternative to the complex honeycomb construction. Structural sandwich panels with a polyurethane foam infill are well established in other commercial applications, such as automobiles, aircraft, and prefabricated buildings. Several recent advances in polyurethane foam formulations have resulted in a material that can resist the localized compressive stresses and fatigue loading beneath a truck wheel, making this type of sandwich panel construction a viable alternative for bridge decks. Once these panels can compete against reinforced concrete on a first-cost basis, their significantly longer life expectancies will result in a more cost-effective transportation network.


Relationship to other Research/Projects

This proposal is an extension of a current NUTC-supported project funded by the Missouri Department of Transportation and represents the next step in development of this concept. The investigators will submit a proposal to the NCHRP Idea program as well as develop additional conference and journal publications based on the current project.

Transportation-Related Keywords

Bottom Ash, Bridge Substructures, Bridge Waterways, Erosion, Fly Ash, Hydraulic Structures, Riprap, Scour

Technology Transfer Activities

The technology transfer activities will include a final research report and dissemination of the findings through national conference(s) via technical presentation(s) and publications(s).


Project Deliverables

Design guide for synthetic riprap constructed from CCPs, including construction of the material and recommendations on implementation for erosion control.

Anticipated Benefits

Advanced Materials, Bridge Decks, Composite Materials, Corrosion Mitigation, Fiber-Reinforced Polymers


Project Start Date: 08/20/2012
Project End Date: