CSULB Professor Says Textile Waste Could Be Used to Reinforce Structures

Yu-Fu Ko, Ph.D., P.E., a member of the faculty in the Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Management department at Cal State Long Beach, looks at textile waste—as in fleece, flannel, corduroy, cotton, nylon, denim, wool and linen—and thinks not of disposal, but of construction opportunities.

Ko’s recent research focuses on seismic retrofitting of existing structures, with an eye on using textile waste to support civil infrastructures.

“I’m looking at how they might be used to reinforce concrete structures such as buildings and bridges,” said Ko in a press statement. “If the preliminary research results were successful, it could be applied to retrofit earthquake-damaged structures in the future. In current practice, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (CFRPs) are used to retrofit buildings and bridges. But making these reinforcing fibers can be hazardous. Workers who make carbon fibers breathe in the materials. That’s not good. Plus, carbon fibers are expensive. I hope, by mixing textile waste with bio-derived resin matrix, they will deliver equal strength of CFRPs at a reduced environmental impact.”

According to CSULB, based on Ko’s research, using textile waste will be a feasible option for the future. Not only would textile waste patch up an aging and weakening infrastructure, the material could serve as a substitute for diminishing global resources.

“The material diminishing the fastest is timber,” he said in a statement. “I see less every year. The same is true for reinforced concrete and steel. Typical buildings and bridges today still use all these materials. That won’t be the case in the future.”

As a professor of undergraduate and graduate studies, Ko stresses to his students the importance of finding a use for new materials.

“If you inject carbon nanotubes into a structure, it can multiply the strength of the original structure,” he explained in a statement. “Look at the process of filling concrete with rebar. The carbon nanotubes play the same role as the rebar. It offers additional reinforcement. In decades, there will be limited resources to make rebar. In addition, the carbon nanotubes offer many times the strength offered by rebar reinforcement. We are talking about superstructures in the future.”

Ko’s research also focuses on developing new computational modeling using algorithms to perform numerical tests, which will be calibrated to perform the mechanical tests that could characterize the materials used in the analysis and design of buildings, bridges and other infrastructures.

Also as an applied mechanics researcher, Ko believes in the importance of understanding the materials of modern construction at both a microscopic and nanoscopic level. He studies the material’s behaviors both mechanically and numerically.

“It is important to come up with the right equations and computer programs so that engineers or
students could understand the material’s fundamental parameters,” he said in a statement.“With these kinds of studies, we can make predictions about the material’s behaviors and we can use these data to analyze and design for buildings, bridges, infrastructures, cars, airplanes, etc.”

Prior to joining CSULB, Ko was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at UCLA, as well as a senior structural design engineer at Englekirk & Sabol Consulting Structural Engineers, Inc. He is also a registered Professional Civil Engineer in California.

“New materials are always under development,” said Ko in a statement. “New materials would change current analysis and design philosophy of structures. If you understand the material behaviors at the microscopic and nanoscopic scale, you can understand the macroscopic behaviors of the materials and easily utilize these materials. The engineering students need to know both microscopic and nanoscopic and macroscopic behaviors of materials. It is important to provide engineering students with that knowledge in their education.”

“CSULB offered me many opportunities in teaching and research to guide engineering students to learn both theories and practical experiences,” he continued. “CSULB engineering students will be very well prepared for the competitive job markets.”


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