Our national infrastructure is the backbone of our economy. In 2022 the U.S. spent almost $390 billion on the transportation infrastructure. Still the American Society of Civil Engineers gives it a grade of C-. An annual funding increase of about $260 billion is required to raise the grade to B. This presentation describes how I, as a materials engineer and professor, have encountered surprising problems with infrastructure materials and have borrowed from the lessons of giants in physics, chemistry, and engineering to find reasonable solutions. The first step is to establish the clear concept toward solution in the mind’s eye. The next step is to find the science that fits the concept. Finally, the challenge is to figure out how the concept meshes with the science – the hard part. To paraphrase Oliver Wendall Holmes, this is often the “simplicity that lies beyond complexity.” I shall discuss three examples of solutions to materials engineering problems on three big money projects on which I have consulted that had surprising solutions based on principles of physics and chemistry.
Professor Little is University Distinguished Professor, Regents Professor and E.B. Snead endowed chair professor in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. He is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Professor Little has produced over 50 Ph.D. graduates who presently hold key academic and research positions across the U.S. and around the world. He has published 290 refereed journal papers. He has given keynote lectures in 40 states and 15 countries and has consulted for over 120 major companies regarding the transportation infrastructure. Dallas has been honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) by giving the Carl Monismith Lecture for the Geotechnical Institute of ASCE and the Francis C. Turner (the first director of the Federal Highway Administration and “Father of the U.S. Interstate System”) Lecture of the Transportation and Development Institute of ASCE. He has given the Kent Distinguished Lecture at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) twice.
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