For the second year in a row, researchers from West Virginia University have taken home the hardware from the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo.

Hota GangaRao, the Maurice and JoAnn Wadsworth Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WVU, and doctoral candidate Praveen Majjigapu, won the Most Creative Application Award in the design category for their patented NextGen Multifunctional Composite System.

The system is a three-piece invention consisting of filler modules — wedge-like parts made to certain specifications — reinforcing dowels and composite materials allows buildings and bridges to resist heavier loads and provides a significant amount of shock absorption as well as moisture and fire resistance. The patented system will increase the strength and endurance of structures in earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other large blasts, helping communities prevent catastrophe. The system is also beneficial for repairing historic or aging structures.

Tests have shown that the multifunctional composite system can absorb at least five times more energy than unfortified structures.

“This system can economically refurbish at about one percent of replacement cost thousands of buildings in California and elsewhere without ripping and replacing,” said GangaRao, “thus reducing the $2 trillion infrastructure funding gap.”

GangaRao, who directs the Constructed Facilities Center and the National Science Foundation-funded Center for the Integration of Composites into Infrastructure at WVU, is a highly respected expert in the areas of composites. Earlier this year, he testified before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology on the importance of investing in advanced materials to continue to lead the world in composite research, development and implementation.

In 2017, GangaRao was part of a research team that included representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that won the CAMX Combined Strength Award for the development of composite wicket gates to replace standard wooden wicket.

Highly respected in his own right, Majjigapu was a finalist in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, an annual competition that rewards innovations, discoveries and research by college and university students and their faculty advisors. He presented the NextGen System to a panel of judges composed of National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office experts and finished third.

“This an incredible honor and a great recognition for our research at WVU in the composites industry and global infrastructure market,” Majjigapu said. “There is an immediate need to implement this technology to help save our crumbling infrastructure under a variety of natural disasters.”

The Most Creative Application Award in the design category is presented to the composites product that showcases composites use in a unique, new application or uses composites’ attributes in imaginative, innovative or artistic ways.

Created by the American Composites Manufacturers Association and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, CAMX is North America’s largest and fastest-growing composites and advanced materials exposition and education event. It features more than 550 exhibitors and more than educational program sessions.

Originally from Mary C. Dillon for WVU Today