Study Looks at Atomic Microscopy for Roads


An associate professor at Kansas State University is reportedly working with the Kansas Department of Transportation to propose the application of atomic force microscopy to state roads in an effort to build longer-lasting infrastructure.

According to the report from the Kansas State Collegian, this could help better analyze crushed samples of roads and construction, allowing for more accurate calculations when constructing roads and buildings. 

Proposal Plans

According to the report, Dr. Behzad Ghanbarian worked with colleague Reza Barati, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Kansas, to use atomic force microscopy for the study.

The joint proposal by Ghanbarian and Barati reportedly received funding from KDOT in order to examine and determine which kinds of geomechanical properties are in the crushed samples. Ghanbarian stated that he wants to better understand these properties, as they can influence the calculations in engineering sites.

“In petroleum engineering it’s pretty straightforward because they have been drilling all the time in the past several decades,” Ghanbarian stated. “Using atomic force microscopy you will be able to focus on one single crushed sample and specifically… determine what kind of geomechanical properties it has.”

The proposal was reportedly made in collaboration with the civil engineering department at Kansas State, as well as the University of Kansas.

Additionally, Nesly Osorio, a geology graduate student, will reportedly use experimental link limestone geomechanical characteristics on core and crushed samples under “completely dry and full saturation conditions.”

According to the researchers, the study is expected to have a positive impact on the state’s residents.

Recent Concrete Studies

In August, a professor at Purdue University reportedly invented concrete sensors that are now being used in interstate reconstruction projects across the U.S. in an attempt to prevent premature concrete failures. 

According to a release from Purdue University, the "smart concrete" sensors can help roadbuilders determine when fresh concrete is mature enough to be driven on without having to take and analyze concrete samples.

Luna Lu, acting head of Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering, has reportedly been leading the development of the sensors since 2017. Lu formed the startup company WaveLogix in 2021 to develop the Rebel Concrete Strength Sensors, aiming to market and manufacture them on a larger scale.

The sensors “directly monitor the fresh concrete and accurately measure many of its properties at once,” according to the release. The sensor reportedly communicates to engineers via a smartphone app when the pavement is strong enough to handle heavy traffic.

The concrete sensors are reportedly installed before the concrete pour and then covered with concrete. A sensor cable is then plugged into a reusable handheld device that logs concrete-strength data in real time for as long as the data is needed.

The technology is reportedly designed to prevent the discrepancies that can arise during the lab testing of concrete’s strength, which can result in opening a new road too soon and shortening the concrete’s life.

The smart concrete reportedly works through sensors embedded into the pour during construction. The smart factor involves telling engineers, through a smartphone app, when the concrete has reached maximum strength after construction or when it is beginning to break down.

Additionally, in September, researchers at the University of Surrey reported they were testing a new thermo-active road solution that could help prevent potholes caused by freezing and thawing in the winter. 

The news release from the university states that the project could improve the ways in which major roads across the United Kingdom are maintained and upgraded, even as climate change raises the challenge of keeping them fit for use.

Dr. Benyi Cao, the project lead and lecturer in the School of Sustainability, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Surrey, will reportedly be working with National Highways in the U.K. to trial the use of geothermal energy to keep road surfaces at a set temperature.

The team will reportedly introduce ground source heat pumps to cool roads in summer and warm them in winter.


Tagged categories: Building materials; Colleges and Universities; concrete; Environmental Controls; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Microscopy; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Safety; Surface Preparation

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