U.S. Department of Defense Awards Rowan Program $3.4 Million Grant for Arctic Research

Photo courtesy of Rowan University.

GLASSBORO, N.J. – For the second time in nine months, the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded the Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering systems (CREATES) at Rowan University a second $3.4 million grant to provide support for US Army projects in the Arctic and other cold regions called “Innovative Construction Materials to Protect National Security Interests in the Arctic Region.” The two DoD awards were the largest to date ever presented to a faculty member on Rowan’s Glassboro campus.

The grant is part of an expansion of the partnership between CREATES and the Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC’s) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL).

Dr. Yusuf Mehta, a civil and environmental engineering professor in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering and CREATES’ director, leads a team of researchers who are working on the original project and expanded initiatives. The main focus of the program is to develop innovative construction materials and technologies for airfields, runways, and roadways which are important to the U.S. economy and national security as part of the National Strategy for the Arctic Region.

Rowan is working on six components that include designing an asphalt mixture that will make de-icing systems more efficient as well as classifying and producing recycled concrete aggregates and developing imaging systems that will provide permafrost profiles and estimate properties of existing ground soils. Beyond cold-regions applications and Department of Defense implications, materials and processes developed as part of the work may have additional implications for the country’s transportation infrastructure and other civilian construction projects.

“The new $3.4 million grant expands on the scope of work on three current projects to be completed this summer and embarks on three new projects that will lead to the development of innovative construction materials and technologies for cold regions,” Mehta said in a statement.

Jared Oren, CRREL’s program manager who is working under the advisement of ERDC’s Military Engineering Technical Director Nick Boone, said, “When you look at the recently published 2019 DoD Strategy for the Arctic, you see that our government is committed to the Arctic as a ‘secure and stable region in which U.S. national security interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is defended, and nations work cooperatively to address shared challenges.’ Specifically, CRREL is tasked with developing the ‘technology to detect permafrost conditions, providing facilities to simulate Arctic conditions, as well as systems and materials evaluation and development.’ Rowan’s projects are integral to that effort and are at the heart of this important DoD strategy.”

In addition to Mehta, the project team includes Dr. Ayman Ali, CREATES’ manager and flexible pavements technical lead; collaborators Drs. Doug Cleary, Gilson Lomboy, Cheng Zhu, civil and environmental engineering professors; and Drs. Shreekanth Mandayam and John Schmalzel, electrical and computer engineering professors; post-doctoral associates; and undergraduate and graduate students.

The team will use a Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS) at CREATES for some of the work. The HVS, the sole such device at a college or university in the Northeast United States, is a $4 million machine provided through a cooperative research and development agreement with CRREL. It can simulate decades of vehicular traffic on highways and airplane runways in less than half a year while controlling testing temperature.

“This is great news for Rowan University, our South Jersey region and our national security,” Congressman Donald Norcross, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee said. “This Defense funding will help advance important research work that will make our armed forces more adaptable, and I look forward to seeing a game-changing discovery come from right here in our backyard. We must continue to boost innovative research and development projects like this that will help keep America safe and secure.” Norcross supported Rowan University in securing this grant and the prior project grant, as well as ensuring the project is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.