The Southern Arkansas University Engineering program has been awarded a $291,000 research grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) to study improved methods for manufacturing the asphalt used on the state’s roads and highways.

SAU faculty members will analyze the effects of using a wood ash-based polymer as an alternative filler for producing hot mix asphalt. Dr. Md Islam, Assistant Professor of Engineering, an expert in civil and construction engineering, will lead the research in collaboration with Dr. Abdel Bachri, Professor of Physics, and Dr. Lionel Hewavitharana, Associate Professor of Engineering.

Ash-based fillers, such as coal ash or wood ash, have excellent physical and chemical properties that can potentially lead to stronger asphalt paving mixtures, with better resistance to corrosion and heat, while also offering low permeability. The SAU research team will employ a “Superpave” mix design that improves pavement performance while taking into consideration variations in traffic and climate. Four SAU students will have the opportunity to be involved in the project.

“We are very fortunate to have been selected,” said Dr. Bachri, who also serves as Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “The ARDOT award provides funding for new equipment, which will strengthen our capacity in civil engineering, a high demand field.” The College is currently renovating space within the Norvell-Cook Engineering Building to establish a geotechnical civil engineering lab.

ARDOT launched the Transportation Research Grant Program “to support the study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions to provide resilient and sustainable logistics, processes, materials, and methods to ensure cost-effectiveness and the furtherance of education and economic development concerning all forms of transportation.”

SAU’s Department of Engineering and Physics recently received news that its BSE program in Engineering has been officially accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, attesting to the high quality of its faculty and programs.

Securing this competitive grant from ARDOT further signals not only excellence in instruction, but also educational and research opportunities that prepare graduates to lead the way in innovation and emerging technologies. The Engineering program enjoys strong industry support and has quickly built an excellent reputation among employers.

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