Into the lab: Civil Engineering

J. Brian Anderson, associate professor of civil engineering, is collaborating with the Alabama Department of Transportation for the next three years to investigate solutions to remediate swelling clays found under roads in western Alabama while keeping the routes open. Shrinking and swelling soils, sometimes called expansive soils, are typically the result of the presence of high plasticity clays. The consequences of swelling can be significant, with moderate swelling pressures high enough to heave roadways. Expansive soils are an issue in many areas in the United States. Locally, these soils are common in the southern and western portions of Alabama. Many roads in this part of the state follow farm to market routes that were cut and built from materials in the immediate area. These roads typically serve rural areas and many have become key routes for commercial traffic. Typical permanent solutions to this problem involve closure and reconstruction of the roads from the bottom up. However, closure or detouring of these roads is often not feasible from the standpoints of economics and safety.  Anderson and his team are looking at the application of a method to arrest the shrinking and swelling of these clays in place, with minimal interruption of traffic.