Brian Brashaw recalls being under a wooden bridge years ago and seeing the cross beam squish down about four inches when a big gravel truck passed over it. You couldn’t tell from the outside, but the inside of that important bridge beam was rotted. Therein — literally — lies the problem.
Wood is a traditional material for building bridges with a lot of benefits — it’s renewable, sequesters carbon and can be rapidly installed using local manufacturers. Timber bridges are especially prevalent in rural areas and Minnesota has more than 2,000 with wooden support structures and/or decking material. But water, insects, cracking and minimal maintenance can wreak havoc on bridge structures — and that havoc is not always apparent.
"The biggest areas of decay are because water is not getting off the bridge deck very well," Brashaw, NRRI Wood Program director noted. "Railings connections are an area of concern and snow plows also cause a lot of damage."
The Minnesota Department of Transportation needed better wood bridge inspection techniques. To meet this need...
It wasn’t what she was looking for, but noting the presence of the golden-winged warbler was a special treat for Alexis Grinde this spring. Research has shown that this tiny feathered friend is experiencing one of the steepest population declines of any bird species in the past 45 years.
Thanks to NRRI’s decades of work breeding tree species in the greenhouse, the United States will be ready with fast-growing energy crops to fuel alternative energy resources. NRRI’s Populus deltoides species and other hybrids are in the line-up with sorghum, switchgrass, willow, energy cane and others that are being tested for conversion to biofuels for alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel.
Brian Herman is a believer in serendipity — the phenomenon of unintentionally making desirable discoveries — and that cross-disciplinary, collaborative research encourages those serendipitous connections. As Vice President for Research for the entire University of Minnesota system, Herman is working to integrate that philosophy through a web of 19 collegiate units and five campuses.
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