/ News / University of Nevada, Reno pavement testing technology hits the market

University of Nevada, Reno pavement testing technology hits the market

Parul Dubey on April 13, 2023 - in News, Products, Roads, Technology, Transportation

Sesh Commuri, University of Nevada, Reno professor of electrical engineering, was on hand for the debut of his new asphalt pavement construction technology, RTDensity, in March at the ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, one of the largest construction trade shows in North America.


Electrical Engineering Professor Sesh Commuri’s road construction tool, RTDensity, to help pavement industry

RENO, Nev. – After a long, stormy winter, drivers are faced with dodging potholes or suffering the consequences of damage to their vehicles, but a first-of its-kind quality control tool may help increase the quality of pavement and keep those potholes, ruts and cracks from forming.

The new quality-control tool for road construction will enable crews to verify pavement quality as they build asphalt roads rather than waiting until after construction and using core samples to determine density of asphalt.

“Being able to detect pavement density during construction can save construction companies millions of dollars in labor, materials and time and improve the overall quality of roadways,” Professor Sesh Commuri of the University of Nevada, Reno – who developed the device, said.

The device, named RTDensity, is based on the Retrofit Intelligent Compaction Analyzer previously developed by Commuri in the University’s Electrical and Biomedical Engineering Department. It is manufactured by G4 Technologies, a subsidiary of the California-based construction company George Reed International, known as GRI.

RTDensity is a stand-alone device that can be installed on any vibratory compacter, such as a road roller used to compact freshly laid asphalt. The roller operator uses the device as the road is being built to determine the road density – a key factor that determines the performance and longevity of the road.

Commuri said the device solves a problem in the road-construction process: quality assurance is now done after construction, with core samples cut out of the road and analyzed. If the core samples do not meet the required density specifications, then the contractor’s payment is reduced. In some cases, the entire road may have to be rebuilt.

A well-designed and constructed pavement is designed to last many years. However, poor construction quality due to inadequate quality control tools is a leading cause of premature failure such as potholes, ruts and cracks.

He said that the equipment will benefit the road construction industry by

  • providing continuous measurement of density and stiffness of the road during compaction and help the roller operator avoid over- or under-compaction of the asphalt pavement,
  • providing complete documentation of compaction quality for hot mix asphalt pavements that can be verified through in-situ testing,
  • helping to improve productivity and efficiency while reducing operational costs, and
  • providing information that can be used to plan remedial actions to improve the overall quality of the pavement structure.

For years Commuri has been interested in intelligent compaction — a compaction process that uses rollers (for compacting soil and asphalt) outfitted with an integrated measurement system that includes a Global Positioning System, an accelerometer (an instrument that detects and measures vibrations), and computer and temperature sensors – to estimate the stiffness of materials being compacted.

He developed a neural network-based compaction analyzer that uses computer algorithms to estimate the density of asphalt. After joining the University of Nevada, Reno in 2016, he began working with GRI to develop what would become RICA, which is based on machine learning techniques and is more efficient and simpler to implement than the older technology.

Garrett Winkelmaier, a technology development manager at G4 Technologies and former student of Commuri’s, has worked with Commuri to build the latest software application and system of sensors as well as testing and validating the new technology.

“I believe that RTDensity has the potential to change the way that quality control is handled throughout the industry,” Dr. Winkelmaier said. “Current quality control methods are destructive to the construction process, only offer a snapshot of the road at random intervals and results often come back a day or two later when it is impossible to make changes in the construction.

“RTDensity, on the other hand, gives roller operators real-time information about the quality of the construction and can generate a report for the densities over the entire road. In general, intelligent compaction has been sought-after by this industry for over six decades, and RTDensity is the first product that addressing this need and can be purchased ‘off the shelf’ and retrofit to any steel drum roller already being used at construction sites.”

The device debuted in March at the ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, one of the largest construction trade shows in North America. It should be available commercially in July or August of this year, according to Phil Reader, technical services manager at GRI.

“We are very proud of Dr. Commuri’s contribution to industry,” College of Engineering Dean Erick Jones said. “Engineering is all about applying scientific knowledge to solve real-world problems and improve lives.”

The University of Nevada, Reno, is a public research university that is committed to the promise of a future powered by knowledge. As a Nevada land-grant university founded in 1874, the University serves 21,000 students. The University is a comprehensive, doctoral university, classified as an R1 institution with very high research activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Additionally, it has attained the prestigious “Carnegie Engaged” classification, reflecting its student and institutional impact on civic engagement and service, fostered by extensive community and statewide collaborations. More than $800 million in advanced labs, residence halls and facilities has been invested on campus since 2009. It is home to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and Wolf Pack Athletics, maintains a statewide outreach mission and presence through programs such as the University of Nevada, Reno Extension, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Small Business Development Center, Nevada Seismological Laboratory, and is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Through a commitment to world-improving research, student success and outreach benefiting the communities and businesses of Nevada, the University has impact across the state and around the world. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.

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