Cotton- Derived Composite Materials for Climate Resilient Transportation Infrastructure

The intensity and the frequency of extreme climate events are projected to increase over the next 50 to 100 years. Specifically, in the southern plains region of the United States, long duration of heat waves and floods have been creating havoc on critical transportation infrastructure. These climate events have significant impacts on land-based transportation systems including roadways, vehicles, railways, and waterways. Moreover, the increasing severity of these events will affect the service life of these valuable assets and public safety that consequently negatively impacts the US economy. Furthermore, increased traffic congestions and funding constraints experienced in transportation agencies for construction, maintenance, rehabilitation, and preservation of infrastructure aggravates these weather-related impact on transportation infrastructure. Therefore, focus has been on developing novel road construction materials including concrete with high strength and toughness to withstand local weather and climate change. This study examines cellulose and its derivatives, which have been extensively used for diverse applications. Amongst them, acidic hydrolysis of native cellulose leading to low-molecular-weight (MW) cellulosic products, referred to as nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), has become an effective way to develop nano-based materials. This study will utilize both long chain cotton fibers and short chain NCC and NCC microbeads derived from cotton as reinforcing material to enhance the mechanical properties of concrete including tensile strength, energy adsorption capacity and crack resistance. These cotton fiber-concrete and NCC microbeads-concrete composites have potential to effectively serve as an alternative to conventional construction materials while significantly enhancing the sustainability of infrastructure construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation.