Tuesday, October 28, 2014

URSP Student Justin Kurz Uses Graphite Nanomaterials as Concrete Reinforcing

My OSCAR research is the result of my continued involvement with Concrete Canoe at GMU. Concrete Canoe is a design, build, and race competition hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers in which groups of students have to design, engineer, build, and race a canoe made out of concrete that can hold up to 4 people at a time. While researching possible additives to make our canoe lighter and stronger I came across some research suggesting that the addition of carbon nanomaterials would be an effective way to reduce weight while increasing the tensile strength of the concrete. My goal is to find a way to reap the potential benefits of these high tech materials in a concrete mix that doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment.

I have worked around concrete for the better part of the last 7 years, working for a contractor in DC helping to build a tunnel at Dulles Airport, offices, apartments, and most recently the newest Smithsonian Museum. Since becoming involved in the industry I have always been amazed at the versatility concrete has despite being one of the oldest known building materials. Through doing research with OSCAR I have gained a lot of insight into the relationships between the constituent elements of concrete which has made me a much better informed engineer. My research will not only benefit me but the data I am gathering now in the lab on concrete mix design will also benefit George Mason’s Concrete Canoe Team for years to come.

Because there is no materials science lab for concrete at GMU I conduct my research at the ABET certified lab of Vulcan Ready Mix Materials in Springfield, VA. I visit there once a week and bring a small group of civil engineering students with me to learn about mix design. We develop small batches of concrete to be cured and tested. Having the opportunity to work in Vulcan’s lab has also benefited me professionally by seeing what goes on behind the scenes when a commercial concrete mix is being developed. Currently, my mentors at Vulcan, Teck Chua and Sean Murnane, are working on designing all of the concrete which is being poured on the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line extension.