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Technical papers involving accelerated bridge construction and precast/prestressed concrete products were among the 5,000-plus presentations in more than 800 sessions at the 96th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board. More than 13,000 transportation engineers and specialists from across the country—and around the world—journeyed to Washington, D.C., earlier this year for TRB 2017, and Concrete Products was among them.

by tom kuennen

From Rice University, Houston … Bringing order to disorder is key to making stronger and greener cement and concrete. In National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy-backed research, Rice University scientists have decoded the kinetic properties of cement and developed a way to “program” the microscopic, semicrystalline particles within. The process turns particles from disordered clumps into regimented cubes, or spheres that combine to make the material less porous and more durable.

One of the largest problems ready mixed producers face every day on the job is the quality and consistency of concrete field testing. Ask if they have experienced poor quality testing then brace yourself for stories of uncalibrated machines, uncovered cylinders, incorrect curing temperatures and uncertified technicians.

“Crushable” concrete for better protection against terrorists ... improved designs for precast rockfall barriers ... corrosion of precast concrete barrier connections ... lightweight, high-performance, self-consolidating concrete for bulb-T beams. They’re all part of new research presented earlier this year during the 94th annual Transportation Research Board annual meeting, which drew 12,000-plus design, engineering and allied professionals to Washington, D.C.