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For Release: November 18, 1996
SPACE SHUTTLE TECHNOLOGY LEADS TO A CHEAPER, BETTER AND FASTER WAY TO RESURFACE BRIDGES
Horns honk and brakes squeal as you and other commuters slow to a crawl and squeeze into one lane of a four-lane highway. Worse, youll probably have to sit in heavy traffic like this for the next several mornings. Workers are resurfacing a bridge.
But the era when it takes two-to-three days to resurface a bridge may be over. In cooperation with the Alabama Department of Transportation, NASA and USBI Co. recently used an environmentally friendly spray system developed from Space Shuttle technology to quickly apply a non-skid surface to a bridge south of Huntsville, Ala. Four hours after the surface was applied, traffic was again crossing the bridge.
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and USBI designed the resurfacing tool which uses a USBI-developed Convergent Spray Technologies TM spray process and nozzle. The Convergent Spray Technologies TM process is currently used to apply a heat resistant coating to the Shuttles Solid Rocket Boosters.
Using the spray process, researchers completed the resurfacing job in a fraction of the time conventional methods take. Once the surface is prepared, the current method requires workers to apply a resin system to the roadway, manually lay down a coat of gravel or non-skid materials and finally apply a second coat of resin. This new process does the entire job in one pass.
"Not only does it shorten the job, but the process does not harm the environment. It uses a solvent-free spray, significantly reducing hazardous waste normally associated with most spray applications," said Kyle Hamlin, materials engineer at USBI.
Another plus for the environment is that common and recycled filler materials and common resin systems can be used with the spray equipment. For this project, investigators used a mixture of ground flint and resin to resurface the bridge. The new coating provides a higher grade of traction and will better-protect the bridge from erosion than current bridge coatings.
"This project gives us the opportunity to evaluate a new pollution-prevention technology and to try out different adhesives and filler materials which could be used for other NASA programs," said Vernotto McMillan, technical manager at Marshall Space Flight Center.
"We wanted to take existing NASA technology and develop it for use in other NASA and commercial applications. Then, demonstrate that its use affords a cheaper, better and faster product," McMillan said.
The bridge resurfacing project is a product of a 1994 agreement between the Marshall Center and the Federal Highway Administrations Region 4 office for the Southeastern United States. Marshall and its contractors agreed to provide innovative technology derived from the space program and put it to use for a variety of highway applications, including corrosion resistant coatings for metal bridges and non-skid surface treatment for pavements.
This multi-use time-and money-saving process could have many applications. Marshall and USBI are investigating other uses for the tool. So far, investigators are evaluating applications of low-solvent coatings on low-slope roofs for commercial buildings and working with a food company to spray toppings on snack foods.
"The successful commercial adaptation of this space program technology is yet another example that shows Americas space program is paying off for American business and industry," said Harry G. Craft Jr., manager of the technology transfer office at Marshall.
"Technologies developed for the nations space program by NASA and its contractors, are now at work in thousands of American firms, benefiting millions of Americans," he said.
American firms wishing to discuss ways in which NASA technical assistance programs might benefit them may call 1-800-USA-NASA.
USBI is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation and part of Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion Operations.
NOTE: Photos are available to support this news release. To request copies, please call Marshall Center Media Services at 205-544-0034.
Prepared by Kelly McFalls