NSF awards Sobolev $20K to plan multi-site Concrete Advancement Network

Konstantin Sobolev

In July, the National Science Foundation awarded Konstantin Sobolev, professor, civil & environmental engineering, a $20,000 planning grant to map the creation of the UWM-led Concrete Advancement Network (CAN). When completely funded, this nationwide Industry-University Cooperative Research Center would provide long-term solutions for the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure by helping to meet the demand for improved materials for roads, bridges and buildings.

Directed by Sobolev, with UWM serving as the network’s hub, CAN will bring together timely concrete and cement research being undertaken at the four member universities, each of whom subspecializes in an area of concrete research: UWM, Arizona State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Texas at Arlington. “There are no redundancies in this group, as each team has complementary expertise,” says Sobolev. “Through CAN, we will share the research ideas from 20 projects [five per university] with industry sponsors so they can determine what research projects could benefit their industry sector.”

Cement and concrete are the world’s most widely used construction materials. Sobolev says that the most promising research is addressing such areas as: nanotechnology, recyclability and reducing the carbon footprint of concrete, improving structural design with machine learning, and incorporating emerging technologies such as ultra-high performance and digital concrete, which includes embedded sensors for maintenance assessment and critical failure prevention, as well as digital manufacturing and 3D-printing of concrete .

At UWM, Sobolev will be joined by Steven Kosmatka, associate director, Concrete Sustainability and Resilience Center, Habib Tabatabai, professor, civil & environmental engineering, Ilya Avdeev, professor, mechanical engineering and director of Innovation and Kellner Entrepreneurship Fellow at Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, and Reed Heintzkill, doctoral student in Department of Materials Science & Engineering in UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science.

In the planning phase, the team will explore the needs of industry, establish the research agenda, and formally establish the five-year research roadmap for the proposed multi-site center.