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Research team wins international award for material innovation

A photo of Hota GangaRao and Praveen Majjigapu.

Hota GangaRao and Praveen Majjigapu

A pair of researchers from West Virginia University have won the Delmonte Award for Excellence for the development of their patented NextGen Multifunctional Composite System, presented by the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineers North America.


Hota GangaRao, the Maurice and JoAnn Wadsworth Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WVU, and doctoral candidate Praveen Majjigapu, created the three-piece invention consisting of filler modules — wedge-like parts made to certain specifications — reinforcing dowels and composite materials that allow buildings and bridges to resist heavier loads while providing a significant amount of shock absorption as well as moisture and fire resistance. WVU is only the second university to win the award in its 38-year history, with Stanford University winning in 1991.

The NextGen Composite System, which is designed to impact the material, manufacturing and design markets, utilizes sustainable materials, high-precision manufacturing techniques, optimized design strategies, cost-effective construction and rehab techniques, and minimally intrusive nondestructive evaluation methods.

“These new composites technologies are paving the way for numerous structural applications in infrastructure, aerospace, defense, automotive, marine, furniture, recreational and other industries,” said GangaRao. “In addition, these developments/inventions are leading to reduced maintenance while providing pleasing aesthetics both in structural and non-structural applications.

“Effective utilization of our advances in the fields of military and civil infrastructure, especially in terms of rehabilitation of in-service systems, will not only save lives under extreme events such as earthquakes and hurricanes but also accrue large sums of dollars while enhancing worker productivity,” GangaRao continued. “I am especially grateful to SAMPE for elevating the importance of applicability of this invention through this recognition and equally grateful to WVU for providing opportunities to advance this work to field installation level.”

This is not the first award for GangaRao, who directs the Constructed Facilities Center and the National Science Foundation-funded Center for the Integration of Composites into Infrastructure at WVU, and Majjigapu. In October 2018, the duo won the Most Creative Application Award in the design category at the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo, North America's largest and fastest-growing composites and advanced materials exposition and education event. In 2017, Majjigapu presented the NextGen System at the Collegiate Inventors Competition 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 award signifies the importance of our invention in extending the service life of infrastructure systems to resist extreme events such as earthquakes and hurricanes while saving many lives,” said Majjigapu. “There is a significant need for innovative and cost-effective solutions to repair and retrofit infrastructure around the world. When you look at hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the earthquake that recently devastated parts of Mexico, you can quickly see how a solution such as this could have saved lives and preserved many of the structures that were affected.

“Dr. GangaRao and I would like to thank Professor Ever Barbero for agreeing to serve as a nominator for this award application,” Majjigapu said. “We would also like to thank the staff and students of the Constructed Facilities Center who extended help on this project.” Barbero is a SAMPE Fellow.

“It is only fitting that this news comes as we prepare our inaugural Research Week celebration,” President Gordon Gee said. “This award symbolizes the significance of the research that is conducted at West Virginia University, and its importance in improving society. And what makes this even more significant is that it is a result of a partnership between professor and student. I am extremely proud of Hota and Praveen’s efforts.”

The SAMPE Delmonte Award for Excellence was established by John Delmonte in 1981. It is intended to encourage outstanding contributions in the field of materials and processes throughout the world; to acknowledge major achievements by honoring distinguished individuals in the field of materials and processes; and disseminate those technical achievements among the members of the materials and processes community.



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