(West Virginia University)

The Achilles heel in any structural system performance is its joint, especially under extreme events such as hurricane, seismic and blast loads. Recognizing the importance of force-transfer joints, researchers at West Virginia University invented a multi-functional three-part composite system to enhance energy absorption, durability, and fire resistance of a structure in a cost-effective manner.

The three-part invention includes: (i) filler-modules, (ii) dowels, and (iii) advanced fiber composite (FC) wrap and/or laminate systems. The main concept of this invention is to maximize the structural system performance while minimizing the stress-concentration effects at re-entrant corners. The patented system when applied to joints of a bridge or building or any other structure such as lattice tower, will allow the structure to resist extreme events by maintaining overall structural integrity. The structural performance has been validated after extensive testing and evaluation on several reinforced concrete and timber frame joints using high-performance and low-cost FC including engineered timber. These products were supplied by Sika Corporation, Air Logistics Corporation, Engineered Syntactic Systems, and Weyerhaeuser – WV. Test results revealed at least a five-fold increase in structural capacities while avoiding catastrophic failures, proving the effectiveness of this invention. It should be highlighted that the NextGen Composite System is easy (light weight and modular) to handle, and economical (~1% of the structure replacement cost) to install in the field when compared to commercially available products. Based on the in-depth theoretical and experimental evaluations, the NextGen Composite System will save thousands of lives by avoiding catastrophic failures: for example, thousands of buildings in CA and elsewhere built prior to 1978, can be economically refurbished without ripping and replacing, and also resulting in reducing the $2 trillion infrastructure funding gap. In addition, this invention will be extended to enhance the joint performance of structural systems in aerospace, automotive, defense, furniture and other industries. For non-structural applications, this invention, as minimum can reduce maintenance while providing pleasing aesthetics.