Fixing Our Lifelines

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Part of an in-depth online report on Canada’s Infrastructure Gap.)

Queen’s University civil engineers have the pulse on the water pipes, gas lines and sewers that lie beneath our feet.

We all know it’s there, but it’s easy to take for granted. Buried beneath the ground is a network of pipes that not only makes your life bearable but also keeps you alive. Just like other types of infrastructure, these old water pipes, gas lines and storm sewers are starting to break down, and fixing them is an expensive undertaking.

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Building Better

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Part of an in-depth online report on Canada’s Infrastructure Gap.)

How new technology is boosting the lifespan of large-scale infrastructure.

The ISIS Canada Research Network has a simple but ambitious mission: to ensure that Canada is a world leader in civil engineering.

Based at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, ISIS Canada works to improve bridges and other key large-scale structures through the use of new materials and designs. The network coordinates the efforts of 185 researchers representing 14 Canadian universities and other government and industry partners who are working to improve infrastructure through the use of fibre-reinforced polymers (FRPs) — a very strong composite material usually made up of glass, carbon, basalt or aramid (a strong, heat-resistant synthetic fibre).

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Big Teams, Big Tests

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Part of an in-depth online report on Canada’s Infrastructure Gap.)

More than 200 researchers enter the “CRIB” to develop and test large-scale infrastructure in real-world conditions.

Structural engineers are always coming up with novel ways to build infrastructure. It’s what they do best. But when they collaborate with materials engineers, who work at the microstructure level to create more durable building materials, they can literally work wonders.

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Green Cement

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (Part of an in-depth online report on Canada’s Infrastructure Gap.)

Using a by-product of the pulp and paper industry to create a kind of super glue for cement.

The cement industry’s carbon footprint is massive. From the energy used to extract raw materials to the emissions released throughout the cement manufacturing process, it all adds up to an estimated 6 to 10 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

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Minding the Infrastructure Gap

June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (online)

Innovative research is a crucial part of the plan to make Canada’s roads, bridges and water systems stronger, safer and more durable.

We often take public infrastructure for granted. We assume that the bridges we cross on the way to work will remain stable, that our taps will always run with clean water, that our buildings will stand straight. But nothing lasts forever. Everything breaks down eventually.

We live in unprecedented times. Along with the rest of the world, Canada is experiencing a massive migration to our urban centres — roughly 80 percent of Canadians now live in cities, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. This increases our need for new infrastructure, and it further strains and stresses our aging infrastructure, much of which was built during the post-Second World War development boom. All those roads and bridges, water pipes and sewer systems were built to last. But in those days, that meant about 50 years.

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