Doctoral student develops award-winning ohmic curing technique for making pipes

RUSTON — Engineering Materials and Infrastucture Systems doctoral student and member of the Louisiana Tech University chapter of the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) Stephen Gordon of Shreveport has developed an “Ohmic Curing Technique for GPC Pipe” to create pipes for underground construction from low carbon emission geopolymer materials.

Geopolymers, green alternatives to cement, are composed of industrial waste and take a long time to cure. The ohmic heating technique decreases curing time by using electricity to heat the geopolymer evenly. The process reduces the time it takes geopolymer materials to dry to a fraction of the time it takes traditional cement to cure. Using this research, crews can replace damaged roadways and rapidly cast pipes with geopolymers faster than with conventional cement methods.

Last spring, Gordon won the Trenchless Research Competition at the 2022 NASTT No-Dig Show for a poster presentation on the novel technique. At the time, the curing process he developed took roughly 30 minutes to complete. Over the last few months, Gordon and his advisor, Dr. Shaurav Alam, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering Technology, and member of the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC), have changed the geopolymer mix to cut that time frame in half.

Gordon, Alam, and key members of the Advanced Materials Research Lab at the TTC on Louisiana Tech’s campus presented the technique to the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center using a small-scale 3-D printable beam mold also developed in the lab.

“Without the support of Dr. Shaurav Alam, Dr. John Matthews [Director of the TTC and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering Technology, and Engineering and Technology Management], Dr. Collin Wick [Associate Dean of College of Engineering and Science Graduate Studies and Research], and the TTC, my research would not have developed into what it is now,” Gordon said. “The TTC and the wider College of Engineering and Science at Louisiana Tech University have given me many opportunities to expand and develop as an engineer. It was through the TTC that I was given the opportunity to travel to Milwaukee to attend the No-Dig Show. I am very proud to have won the award for Louisiana Tech University and the Trenchless Technology Center.”

“Stephen is always an outside-the-box thinker,” Alam added. “We started thinking about the possibilities of geopolymerization using ohmic curing. His CRAZY mind developed the setup and the fundamental efforts to make it happen. If properly made, this rapid curing geopolymerization has the potential to reduce pavement construction time by several folds.”

​​“In the time Stephen has been a graduate student at Louisiana Tech, he has been a truly outstanding student that continues to impress with his demeanor, academics, and accomplishments,” Wick said. “I am confident that he has a bright future.”

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