Concrete columns used as the support structures of a bridge would be stronger if they were hollow, says Mohamed ElGawady, an associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. He says these hollow columns, the first of their kind in the United States, could extend the lifespan of a bridge beyond the current 50-years.
The columns feature a steel tube surrounded by 3 inches of concrete. They are covered by a fiberglass-reinforced polymer coating.
The columns use less concrete than current practice, but vehicle-crash simulations show that they can withstand the same amount of force as conventional concrete columns. Impact to these hollow pillars is transferred throughout the structure, minimizing damage to the overall column.