Project Title

Accelerating Use of Sustainable Materials in Transportation Infrastructure

Collaborating Universities

University of Virginia
351 McCormick Dr.
P.O. Box 400742
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4742

Principal Investigator(s)

Devin Harris
Osman Ozbulut

Total Project Costs

VTRC Match: $85,654

Start Date


Completion Date



With the theme of MATS UTC focused on the accelerated adoption of sustainable practices into the provisions of transportation services, a critical component of this theme is the application of sustainable materials. The level of sustainability of materials depends on numerous factors. Many think naturally of the incorporation of a high percentage of recycled materials and the use of locally sourced materials. However, beyond this, sustainable materials must demonstrate high performance – limiting the need for frequent reconstruction and the resulting congestion that causes fuel consumption and higher emissions, and the ability to construct more efficient structures that require lower material quantities. In this research effort, the investigators will focus on innovative high performance materials, as well as enhancements to existing material designs.


The research groups led by Professors Devin Harris and Osman Ozbulut are currently exploring the design and implementation of high-performance sustainable materials such as ultra-high performance concrete, shape-memory alloys, and fiber-reinforced polymers for transportation application. In addition to the evaluation of these sustainable materials, the researchers propose the exploration of performance enhancement of existing material designs. The focus of this enhancement will center on improving behavior and durability characteristics of cementitious materials through the integration of nano-particles such as graphene. In particular, graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs), which have very thin but wide aspect ratio, are drawing the graphene market due to their advantages such as ease of processing and excellent material properties at a very low cost. The application of two-dimensional graphene nanoplatelets in cementitious composites has yet to gain widespread attention. This study will investigate effective strategies to implement GNPs and perhaps other compounds such as coal ash or ferrous waste into cementitious composites. In addition to the enhancement focus, using recycled materials such as the repurposing of aggregates extracted from existing structures (i.e. recycled from existing structures) and recycled tires may be explored. The integration of recycled aggregates/concrete into new concrete designs presents a significant opportunity for improving the sustainability of existing designs, but also includes a great deal of uncertainty with respect to long-term material performance. The focus of these investigations will be to understand the behavior and performance of these systems and to develop strategies for successful implementation, when appropriate opportunities arise.

For all of the materials considered, the researchers propose to develop a mix design (anticipated to be VDOT standard formulation) that will serve as the baseline for performance comparison. During the investigation, comparisons of performance will be made relative to this baseline mix, with an emphasis on mechanical and durability properties.

Web Links to Reports and to the Project website