Civil and Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Producing Higher Conductive Concrete to Enhance the Energy Efficiency of the Geothermal Pile and Boreholes

MentorsOmid Ghasemi-Fare and Zhihui Sun
Research Lab/LocationGeomechanic Lab
Description of ResearchThere has been the tremendous world-wide thrust for finding sustainable forms of alternate energy sources that will have reduced the uses of Fossil fuels (e.g., coal, petroleum, natural gas) to prohibit their depletion and reduce the global warming rate. Several renewable forms of energy (e.g., solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, geothermal) have demonstrated significant promise to provide suitable replacement for conventional energy sources used in several applications including electricity generation, water and space heating, transport fuels, to name a few. A recent report from Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century suggests that 19% of total energy consumption and 22% of electricity generation, respectively, in 2012 and 2013 were supplied by some form of renewable energy.

Ground source heat pump (GSHP) system is a sustainable way of harvesting geothermal energy. The geothermal energy harvested from geothermal pile and boreholes can be maximized if geothermal pile/borehole- anchored GSHP systems are designed at an optimized thermal performance level. Different research studies showed thermal conductivity of the concrete, and grout of the geothermal pile and borehole has significant effect on the thermal efficiency of the GHSP systems. The overall goal of this proposed research is to enhance the energy efficiency of the geothermal piles and boreholes by developing an innovative highly thermal conductive concrete with thermal conductive additives such as aluminum and brass. This goal can be accomplished by research tasks associated with two detailed research objectives.

Objective 1: Producing a new mix design for highly thermal conductive concrete using high thermal conductive materials (such as powders, fibers and industrial wastes) and compare the cost of the new mix with regular concrete;

Objective 2: Developing a lab scale model test to measure the thermal conductivity of the concrete with new admixtures and compare the energy efficiency of the new concrete with regular mix design.

Experimental setup for thermal conductivity test

  • Boyd, T. L., and Lienau, P.N. (1995). Geothermal heat pump performance, Technical Report: OSTI 895126, Geo-Heat Center, Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls, Oregon.
  • Brandl, H. (1998). Energy piles for heating and cooling of buildings, Proceedings of 7th International Conference and Exhibition on Piling and Deep Foundations, Vienna; 341–346.
  • De Swardt, C.A., and Meyer, J.P. (2001). A performance comparison between an air-source and a ground-source reversible heat pump, International Journal of Energy Research; 25 (10): 899-910.
  • Energy Information Administration (EIA, 2010). “Annual energy outlook”, 2010,   U.S. Department of Energy, Early release, Washington, DC.
  • Gehlin, SEA. Hellstrom, B., and Nordell, B. (2003). The influence of the thermosiphon effect on the thermal response test. Renewable Energy 28(14):2239-2254.
  • Ghasemi-Fare, O. and Basu, P. (2013). A practical heat transfer model for geothermal piles, Energy and Buildings 66, 470-479. 
  • Ghasemi-Fare, O., and Basu, P. (2016). “Predictive assessment of heat exchange performance of geothermal energy piles”, Renewable Energy*, 86, 1178-1196. *5-year Impact factor: 4.068 doi:10.1016/j.renene.2015.08.078
  • Hasanzadeh, B. Liu, F. and Sun, Z. (2016). “Monitoring hydration of UHPC and conventional paste by quantitative analysis on Raman patterns”, Construction and Building Materials, Vol. 114, pp. 208-214.
  • Kramer, C. A., Ghasemi-Fare, O., and Basu, P. (2014). “Laboratory thermal performance tests on a model heat exchanger pile in sand.” Geotechnical and Geological Engineering, Special Issue on Thermo-mechanical Response of Soils, Rocks, and Energy Geostructures, DOI: 10.1007/s10706-014-9786-z.
  • Lim, K. Lee, S., and Lee, C. (2007). An experiment study on the thermal performance of ground heat exchanger. Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 31:985-990.
  • Liu, F. and Sun, Z. (2013). “Feasibility study of using Raman spectroscopy to detect hydration in wet pastes”, ACI Materials Journal, Vol. 110, No. 6, pp. 611-618.
  • Liu, F. and Sun, Z. (2014). “Using Raman Spectroscope to characterize hydration process in different types of cement pastes”, Fifth Advances in Cement-based Materials: Characterization, Processing, Modeling and Sensing, Cookeville, TN, July 7-9.
  • Liu, F. and Sun, Z. (2015). “Chemical mapping of cement pastes by using confocal Raman spectroscopy”, Journal of Frontiers of Structural and Civil Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 168-173.
  • Liu, F. Sun, Z. and Qi, C. (2014). “Raman Spectroscopic Study on the Hydration Behaviors of Portland Cement Pastes during Setting”, ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, Vol. 27, N0. 8, 04014223.
  • Sun, Z. and Liu, F. (2015). “Chemical mapping of cement pastes by using Raman spectroscopy combined with confocal microscopy”, 5th International Symposium on Nanotechnology in Construction, Chicago, IL May 24-26.
  • Takasugi, S. Akazawa, T. Okumura, T., and Hanano, M. (2001). Feasibility study on the utilization of geothermal heat pump systems in Japan, GHC Bulletin; 3-8.
Minimum Student Qualifications
  • Preferred but not required: Background on Concrete
Pay StatusUnpaid
Timeline & Hours per Week10 hours per week
Deadline of ProjectNo scheduled deadline
If you are interested or visit his office at W.S. Speed 105

Design of Concrete Bridges Using Composite Materials

MentorYoung Hoon Kim
Research Lab/LocationTBA
Description of ResearchThe primary objective of the project is to formulate and calibrate the design equation for bridge engineers to use the composites in construction.

 According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card, the U.S. has 154,000 bridges (about 25%), which are 50 years or older. There is the significant deterioration of bridge elements due to the corrosion of steel (see Figure 1(a)). Structural engineers require rational design methodologies to use innovative materials for repairing structurally deficient bridges. This project is proposed to establish the design methodology using innovative materials. Composite materials (Fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) reinforcement) are a viable option. They exhibit excellent structural behavior (see Figure 1(b)) and longer service life (high corrosion resistance).

The expected outcomes of this research will propose design equations to estimate the capacity of composite reinforced bridges.

A student is expected to have the following research opportunities (Total duration: 12 months):

Task 1: Conduct a literature review and establish database relevant to proposed topic (4 months)
Task 2: Develop the shear design methodology of bridges using composite materials (4 months)
Task 3: Analyze the structural behavior using composite materials in bridge girders (4 months)

After completion of the project, a student and a mentor propose the rational design methods to utilize composite materials for safe and durable bridge structures.

Deterioration of concrete bridge slab
Figure 1. (a) Deterioration of concrete bridge slab (Source: and (b) FRP reinforcement versus Steal reinforcement (Source: Connor and Kim (2016))
  • Busel, J. P. (2016), Introduction to Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Composites In Infrastructure ( Accessed on May 2017)
  • Connor, A. and Kim, Y.H., (2016) “Shear Transfer Mechanisms for Glass Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Reinforcing Bars,” ACI Structural Journal, V113, No.6, pp. 1369-1380
Minimum Student Qualifications
  • Interest in structural engineering
Pay StatusUnpaid
Timeline & Hours per WeekDuration of the project is 12 months (specific duration of each task is found in Project Description)
Deadline of ProjectNo scheduled deadline
If you are interestedEmail .