December 6, 2022
Smart concrete from Purdue named a Next Big Thing in Tech by Fast Company magazine
Purdue the only university on list of innovations already hard at work in the real world
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Interstates across the country boast an innovative concrete technology that promises to save American travelers time and money. This “smart concrete” can communicate with engineers about its strength, weakness and need for repair – making road repair more efficient and preventing unnecessary shutdowns. Developed at Purdue University, the innovation is earning attention and has now been named one of the Next Big Things in Tech by Fast Company magazine.
Chosen from a pool of nearly 1,400 applicants, 124 final projects across 21 categories were selected for already making an impact on a real-world problem while also showing promise to make a greater impact in the years to come. Among large corporations and small startups, Purdue is the only university represented on the list.
Purdue shares the Transportation stage with organizations like ClearFlame Engine Technologies, which enables active heavy trucks to shift away from diesel fuel, and Walmart-backed DroneUp, a leader in aerial drone delivery.
Developed by Luna Lu, the American Concrete Pavement Association Professor of Civil Engineering in Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering, smart concrete works via sensors embedded into the pour during construction. The “smart” factor involves telling engineers, via smartphone app, when the concrete has reached maximum strength after construction or when it is beginning to break down.
“Traffic jams caused by infrastructure repairs have wasted 4 billion hours and 3 billion gallons of gas on a yearly basis,” Lu says. “This is primarily due to insufficient knowledge and understanding of our infrastructure’s condition.”
Fast Company states that the self-aware concrete may “provide highway users with a gift that will keep on giving.” Intelligent infrastructure, like roadways that feed us data, is a fairly new field, and Lu and her team already have a running (or rolling) start.
According to Lu, who is also director of the Center for Intelligent Infrastructure, digitally improved roadways may cut down on construction, be better for the environment and be more adaptive to future needs as vehicles continue to evolve.
Prototypes of the sensors have been in place throughout Indiana highways since 2019, thanks to Purdue partnerships with the Indiana Department of Transportation. A Federal Highway Administration nationwide pooled fund has allowed seven other states to join the project.
To improve the tech’s transfer to market, Lu founded WaveLogix, a startup focusing on Internet of Things sensing systems for infrastructure monitoring. Lu has disclosed the work to the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, where she also licensed it to create WaveLogix. Under Lu, the startup recently received National Science Foundation support and recognition from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The recognition complements Purdue’s recent honor as, for the second year in a row, the only university on Fast Company’s 2022 list of Brands That Matter. Through accessible education and innovative, transferable technology, Purdue continues to ask, What can you imagine?
For more about Luna Lu and the future of smart concrete sensor technology from Purdue:
- Science to reveal how long highway construction should actually take
- Enabling highways and bridges to prevent their own damage
- Purdue Expert: Smart Roads (video)
- Expert: Roads need to be ‘smart.’ Here’s why.
- Tech startup WaveLogix receives federal SBIR grant to develop its IoT sensors for concrete strength monitoring
About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu.
About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization
The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology-transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. In fiscal year 2021, the office reported 159 deals finalized with 236 technologies signed, 394 disclosures received and 187 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020 IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About Fast Company
Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies, and thinkers on the future of business. The editor-in-chief is Stephanie Mehta. Headquartered in New York City, Fast Company is published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication, Inc., and can be found online at fastcompany.com.