A bridge in Kentucky has been the first bridge in the nation to be repaired using hemp fiber. The project, led by the University of Kentucky aims to strengthen the state’s bridges.
The project was led by Issam Harik, an engineering professor, as part of a larger project to study how fiber-reinforced polymer composite fair in building construction and bridge repair.
The use of the hemp-infused material this time was in shoring up a pile on a bridge in northeastern Kentucky. The product is a wrap that goes around structural members of a bridge to reinforce them. This experiment is attempting to substitute hemp fibers for the standard carbon fiber in their material.
The rod panels and fabrics that the team has created are called “CatStrong” after the school’s mascot. The material comes in different strengths, with the strongest being able to resist 195,000 pounds per foot of width.
“The CatStrong family of products were developed to meet the repair needs of bridges when no other products were available on the market that satisfy the retrofit requirements,”” Harik said. “”All CatStrong products are tested experimentally and/or via computer models in order to assess their strengths and limitations.””
According to Harik, the sections used were created in part by engineering students. While the professor is skeptical of hemp fibers being ideal components for bridges, he still carried on with the project. According to Harik, “”The limitations are low strength, incompatibility with existing resins, manufacturing processes, and it is seasonable. Some of the limitations can be overcome with ongoing and future research.””
While all of these properties make other materials better than hemp right now, he is still optimistic about using the fiber in construction.
In the future, his team is planning on looking at the use of plant-based resins. The hope is to create a wrap to shore up bridges that is 100% plant-based, biodegradable, flexible, lightweight, and reusable.