The Utilization of Recycled Thermoplastic Composites for Civil and Military Load Bearing Applications
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Long-term performance and extended service life are issues of vital importance to the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD seeks alternative construction materials to replace more traditional materials, such as wood and steel, for heavily loaded infrastructure to combat this expensive corrosion and bio-degradation problem. Recently, two military bridge installations were completed, composed entirely of a reinforced thermoplastic composite lumber (RTCL) material that is capable of supporting the load of an M1 Abrams tank at approximately 64,410 kg (71 tons). The RTCL material selected for these applications is polypropylene (PP) coated fiberglass blended with high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Advantages of using RTCL include the following qualities: corrosion, insect, and rot resistance; no toxic chemical treatments required to increase service life; environmentally friendly; diversion of waste plastics from landfills; reduction of deforestation, green house gases, and global warming. RTCL has many advantages but does behave differently than traditional materials and certain properties must be addressed during the design stage. Both bridges are continually monitored, have performed well over the first year and a half, and are more cost-effective than any other construction material. Details of the material, design considerations, and construction are reviewed.
KeywordsReinforced thermoplastic composite lumber Recycled plastics Polymer blends High density polyethylene Polypropylene Fiberglass Corrosion Structural Infrastructure Bridge Creep SEET Military demonstration project
The Authors would like to acknowledge Rutgers University, US Army CERL, and Axion International, Inc., for their involvement in the pursuit of the technologies discussed in this book chapter.
The authors also recognize and thank the Programs, Offices, and Sponsors that funded and supported the design, construction, and testing of the thermoplastic composite bridge at Fort Bragg:
Office of Under Secretary of Defense, Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight (Director, Dan Dunmire).
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Acquisition Policy and Logistics (Army Corrosion Control Prevention Executive, Wimpy D. Pybus).
Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management (David Purcell, CPC Program; Philip Columbus, ITTP Program Manager; and Michael Dean).
Headquarters, U.S. Army Installation Management Command (Paul Volkman, CPC Program, and Ali Achmar).
The authors would also like to recognize the team that made the thermoplastic composite bridge at United States Army Base Fort Bragg, NC, a reality and success. We thank them all for their support, dedication, and professionalism.
Kelly Dilks, ITTP Project Manager and Vincent Hock, Army Facilities CPC Program Project Manager of the Engineer Research & Development Center (ERDC), Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)
Vincent Chiarito, Terry Stanton, and Henry Diaz-Alvarez of the ERDC, Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL)
Gregory Bean (Director), Darryl Butler, George Whitley, Fred Plummer, Lowell Stevens, and Robert Gardner of the Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Works
Malcolm McLaren and George Assis of McLaren Engineering Group
James Kerstein of Axion International, Inc.
Larry Clark and Karl Palutke of Mandaree Enterprises Corporation
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