Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure

The Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure (CICI) is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC). The purpose of an I/UCRC is to develop long-term partnerships among industry, academics, and government. These centers are started with a small grant from the National Science Foundation but are primarily funded by membership fees from private industrial members. The CICI is a joint center with the University of West Virginia, Rutgers University, and the University of Miami working to integrate composites into infrastructure. For more information on joining CICI, contact

Project Summary

Efficient infrastructure systems such as highways, bridges, buildings, pipelines, flood control systems and utilities are all necessary for a healthy economy and comfortable standard of living.

Concrete, steel and timber are the backbones of physical infrastructure. High strength polymer composites have been used for aerospace structures for about five decades and their use in civil infrastructure spans about 20 years.

West Virginia University (WVU) was involved in many facets of the development and application of polymer composites in civil structures since 1987 and has made many contributions.

Similarly, through a major grant from Federal Aviation Administration spanning 15 years, Rutgers University (RU) has made inroads on the use of inorganic matrices for the development of high strength composites.

The inorganic matrix, originally developed for aircraft application was modified for civil infrastructure applications. Through the NSF I/UCRC on Repair of Buildings and Bridges with Composites (RB2C), research has been conducted at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and University of Miami (UM) on the use of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) and other innovative composite materials for infrastructure renewal and for new construction for the past 10 years.

The primary objective of NSF I/UCRC project, entitled “Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure (CICI)” is to usher applications and cost effective rehabilitation schemes using composites in civil and military structures to the next level through collaborative efforts between WVU, RU, NCSU and UM in collaboration with industries. The focus areas will synergize different fibers and polymers, including natural and bio-constituent materials to create new application areas and rehab techniques; thus expanding market potential.

Intellectual Merit

It is envisioned that the proposed Center will focus on new research concerning:
1) development of constituent material combinations for optimum end products,
2) cost-effective ways to manufacture products,
3) “green” production, including the use of bio-fiber and resins and industrial byproducts,
4) strengthening and rehabilitation of conventional structural systems in service,
5) nondestructive evaluation for structural health monitoring, and
6) further development and application of standard test procedures, guide-specifications, design methods and rapid, modular construction techniques.
Initial research has shown that organic and inorganic polymers can be combined to create strong and fire-proof composite panels. Similarly, combination of glass and carbon fibers provides economy, strength and stiffness of structural members. The Center will address the challenge of making these products viable for commercial application through the combined intellects of academia, government and industry. The Center will also focus on creating new products for specific applications such as pre-cast composite bridge decks and pavement panels, and protection systems to increase the service life of infrastructure damaged by natural and man-made disasters such as earthquake and terror attack. Advances in processing of composites will lead to environmental benefits, as estimates indicate that natural fiber based composites can be manufactured at one-fourth the BTU level of comparable steel sections (GangaRao,2003), and similarly self-cleaning structural composites will help oxidize car exhaust. The Center will integrate scientific endeavors complementing the strengths of all four universities  to advance the composite knowledge base and applications.

Broader Impact

The center activities will enhance the international competitiveness of the American industry in the area of composites including modular construction and rapid deployment techniques using natural and biomaterials; thus reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The nation as a whole would benefit as composite use would, in general, lead to structures of higher safety, shorter construction times and longer life spans at a reduced overall cost with the creation of new job opportunities. Member companies and end users will also benefit from the interaction with others in their field including highly trained students.
In addition to the publishing of journal articles and conference presentations to promote the scientific research and knowledge dissemination, the proposed center will utilize separate funding mechanisms to educate practicing engineers and end users who are not familiar with composites.


Constructed Facilities Laboratory (CFL) will be serving as the lab for this project.


  • 1 of only a few university labs in the United States accredited by International Accreditation Service (IAS).
  • Test reports accepted by International Code Council (ICC).


  • Geotechnical Laboratory
  • Soil/Structure Interaction Laboratory
  • Large Structural Systems Laboratory
  • Concrete Laboratory
  • Outdoor Staging and Testing Area
  • Specialized Testing Equipment
  • Full-Scale Structural Tests
  • Supporting NCSU Computing facilities

Projects for NCSU

Projects for NCSU and UM are continuing from RB2C for CICI’s first year. As these projects reach completion, new collaborations will be established incorporating all four universities.

Innovative composite concrete material:

The objective of this project is to evaluate the fundamental material characteristics of an innovative new family of composite, cementitious-like materials known commercially as Grancrete. Grancrete materials exhibit several characteristics that are beneficial for use in infrastructure applications. The fire resistant properties of hardened Grancrete addresses the concerns related to poor fire resistance of conventional composite strengthening systems. The fast setting time facilitates rapid placement for repair applications as well as for new construction. Further, Grancrete materials exhibit high bond strengths to most conventional construction materials making them suitable for repair applications. The research focuses on two products including a highly fire resistant Grancrete material (Grancrete HFR) and another product which is designed for use in the precast industry. The research includes tests to evaluate the effect of the water-Grancrete ratio (w/g) on the properties of the fresh Grancrete paste. Additional tests are underway to evaluate the basic material characteristics of the hardened Grancrete. The bond strength of Grancrete to other materials is also being quantified. A series of large-scale tests are being conducted to assess the potential to use Grancrete for construction of reinforced and prestressed structural members. The testing suggests that Grancrete represents a promising alternative to conventional materials for infrastructure renewal and for new construction.

Pultruded 3-D GFRP sandwich panels for transportation and infrastructure:

The objective of this research is to characterize the behavior of an innovative 3D pultruded glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) sandwich panel. The panel consists of two pultruded glass fiber face skins separated by a foam core. The skins are connected by through thickness glass fiber insertions to transfer shear stresses and prevent delamination of the skins. The panels are well suited for use in lightweight infrastructure and transportation applications such as pedestrian bridges, trenches, buried structures, transport truck trailers and shipping containers. The first stage of the research focuses on characterizing the fundamental material properties of the panels, including shear, compression, tension and flexural behavior. The effects of the fiber insertion density and pattern on the overall panel properties are also being assessed. The second stage of the research focuses on determining the behavior of the panels under both flexural fatigue and two-way bending loading conditions. Finally, full-scale tests are being conducted to evaluate the suitability and effectiveness of using GFRP sandwich panels for transportation and infrastructure applications.

Innovations in precast concrete parking structures:

The objective of this research is to develop and evaluate innovative design approaches for precast parking structures. The research includes the development of a rational design methodology allowing for the use of open web reinforcement in precast slender spandrel beams. Open web reinforcement would dramatically enhance the constructability of these members. The successful use of open web reinforcement could potentially facilitate the possible widespread use of carbon fiber grid and other FRP materials as open web reinforcement for concrete structures. The research includes testing of approximately 20 full-scale reinforced and prestressed concrete spandrel beams with different aspect ratios and reinforcement layouts. The experimental research is supported by a through analytical and numerical study to evaluate the fundamental mechanisms of force transfer in full-scale structural members with open web reinforcing. This research also investigates the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) grid for use in parking structures. The use of CFRP grid as reinforcement for field topping of precast double-tee deck sections is very promising. Traditional steel reinforcement is susceptible to corrosion at cracks which inevitably form along the longitudinal joints of the double-tee sections. The problem of corrosion in current practice makes CFRP an attractive solution.The research includes testing to evaluate the effect of the CFRP on the bond strength between precast concrete elements and cast-in-place concrete overlays. Additional tests are being conducted to evaluate the failure mode and longitudinal shear strength of joints between precast members with CFRP reinforced overlays.