a UT professor, is paving the way for more durable roads. He is studying
ways to improve highway pavement materials and systems. He notes that
the design of pavement is currently based on design equations developed
from performance tests completed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"Because of the
ever-increasing traffic on our highways, we are experiencing an increasing
frequency of pavement failure in the form of rutting, cracking, andultimatelypotholes,"
Jackson says. "To reduce the public's exposure to reconstruction, rehabilitation,
and maintenance activities, we are attempting to identify pavement systems
in the laboratory that will last longer on the highway, increasing safety
and minimizing costly delays to the traveling public."
Jackson and other
researchers are currently evaluating new pavement performance tests
in the NTRC's infrastructure materials laboratory. Jackson hopes to
identify longer-lasting pavement materials for possible use on the road.
Jackson and his
colleagues at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are
also participating in the construction of a full-scale test track at
the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) in Auburn, Alabama,
to evaluate different pavement materials and design principles.
will be repeatedly run over pavement test sections at the NCAT test
track. The results of this full-scale testing will be used by TDOT to
further evaluate the performance of Tennessee's pavements.
Jackson will also
test these pavement materials in the NTRC lab with special equipment,
such as an asphalt pavement analyzer from Pavement Technology, Inc.
This accelerated testing device will help researchers evaluate the anticipated
performance of different aggregate and asphalt blends in the laboratory.
Jackson hopes that once the NTRC lab is outfitted with this and other
equipment, new avenues of external funding will open up.
Jackson evaluates the anticipated performance of pavement samples
in this testing device. He hopes to identify longer-lasting pavement
Tyler Kress, an assistant
professor of industrial engineering at UT Knoxville, has made important
contributions to improving the safety of automobile airbags and understanding
injuries associated with personal watercraft.
Since the late 1990s,
the U.S. government has required automobile manufacturers to install
airbags in all passenger cars and trucks to protect occupants during
an accident. Several manufacturers started using airbags as early as
the late 1980s. Because the early "one size fits all" airbag design
causes serious and sometimes fatal injuries to some children and adults
during deployment, newer airbags have been designed to be "smarter."
"To minimize injuries," Kress says, "some airbag systems have sensors
that detect occupant size, use or nonuse of a seat belt, and crash severity,
to determine how the airbags should be deployed."
Kress was one
of the human factors researchers who gathered information for the engineers
designing the newer airbag systems. He and his colleagues studied people's
injuries resulting from airbag deployment and then tried to reproduce
the injuries on cadavers and dummies in the lab. They subjected heads
of cadavers and dummies to impacts from airbags made from different
materials, folded in various ways, and deployed at different speeds.
They measured the force, velocity, and pressure of the airbags and assessed
the extent of the resulting "injuries."
Kress measures the dimensions of a dummy head after subjecting
it to airbag testing in a laboratory at Southern Impact Research
In the mid-1990s
Kress and his colleagues drew upon the results of their studies to suggest
ways to improve airbags to make them safer and more effective. Kress
and four researchers from other universities were invited to present
their findings to the National Transportation Safety Board. Since then,
he and his colleagues have noted improvements in the commercial airbag.
research is not, however, limited to road vehicle safety. Last year,
the Federal Aviation Administration announced a need for a regulation
to improve safety features on commercial aircraft. Kress recently completed
a paper with a colleague at BF Goodrich that discusses inflatable lap
belts as a feasible protective alternative for certain applications.
At the human factors
and biomechanical engineering laboratory at NTRC, Kress hopes to continue
his work to understand how personal watercraft injuries occur. In his
research with the personal watercraft industry, he has collected data
on damaged jet skis, accident scenes, and actual injuries.
Kress, who is
also associate director of The Engineering Institute for Trauma and
Injury Prevention, has created dummies with breakable "synthetic" bones
for crash tests, to evaluate designs of products, such as outboard motor
propeller guards in watercraft and motorcycle crash bars. He uses sled
systems, drop towers, high-speed cameras, velocity detectors, and force
and acceleration measurement devices to assess injury potential during
"crashes." The goal is to collect information to be used to improve
the design of vehicles to minimize injuries to occupants during collisions.
(Wendy Bigham, a graduate
student in the Science Communication Program of the University of Tennessee's
School of Journalism, contributed information and photographs to this
Department of Transportation
Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT)
Federal Aviation Administration