Every day West Virginians drive a stretch of Corridor H equipped with technology developed at West Virginia University to enable roads and other structures to send an SOS when in need of repairs.
A 450 -foot section of the Robert C. Byrd Highway near Elkins contains hundreds of data-gathering sensors designed by WVU professor Samir Shoukry. The data inform Shoukry and his research team where the pavement is most susceptible to stresses arising from traffic and weather so they can modify the roads design.
“Our goal is to makesmartstructures that can assess their conditions, report their status continuously to a maintenance agency and call for help in case of emergency,”said Shoukry, a professor in the departments of mechanical and aerospace engineering and civil and environmental engineering.
“This technology could be applied not only to roads, but to bridges, tunnels, pipelines and structures remotely placed in different locations around the country,”he added.
The sensors in Corridor H record such data as vehicle weight, changes in the weather and resulting road conditions, Shoukry explained. A data collection station along the road gathers this information every 20 minutes and transmits it via satellite to Shoukry and his colleagues in Morgantown.
“These sensors give us an idea about stresses in the concrete and indicate when a crack in the pavement is about to occur,”he said.”This section is one of the heaviest instrumented pavement sections in the world.”
Besides the sensors, the highway also contains another of Shoukrys inventions: the Shok Bar. This device, made of steel and other material, is designed to relieve stress in the transverse joints.
Transverse joints are the weakest locations where the pavement first begins to crack under the stresses of traffic loads and adverse weather conditions, Shoukry said. The role of the Shok Bar is to absorb these stresses, thereby extending the life of the pavement, he added.
WVU and the West Virginia Division of Highways are collaborating on the Corridor H project, which will span 10 years of data collection.
Shoukry has been exploring ways to lengthen the life of road surfaces since 1994, using computer simulations to determine the effects of various traffic and environmental stresses on pavements. Until that time, the methods of designing pavement were decades old.
His pioneering research and inventions such as the Shok Bar have earned Shoukry respect in his field, culminating in the Federal Highway Administration asking him to organize the first national symposium on highway modeling that has since grown into an international conference. The work Shoukry has done on Corridor H has definitely impressed DOH Commissioner Fred VanKirk.
“Dr. Shoukry is one of the most innovative and hardest-working researchers Ive ever seen,”VanKirk said.”I think some of the things he is finding out could very well revolutionize the way we look at concrete pavements and the highway industry.”
The Corridor H project has spawned two other projects with the DOH . In one, Shoukry and his team are installing sensors on a bridge deck in Evansville, Harrison County, to monitor the spans condition under various stresses. The second project involves placing sensors in a concrete pavement at the DOH maintenance shop on Goshen Road, Monongalia County, to study environmental effects on road surfaces.
Shoukry envisions a new industry emerging around the technology he has developed and is field-testing on Corridor H.
“This is not science fiction. This is reality,”he said.”With the sensors, we are putting intelligence into structures, allowing them to scream for help if they need it. With the successful conclusion and demonstrated effectiveness of the Shok Bar, Im hoping we can establish a new industry in West Virginia, creating jobs and income.”