June 8, 2021

NDSU research team honored by national transportation group


The research group of Ravi Kiran Yellavajjala, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, has received the High-Value Research Award from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The researchers were recognized for their “Corn-based deicers” project.

“We are very excited to receive the AASHTO High-Value Research award, as this national recognition will bring attention to our research in sustainable transportation and structural engineering employing local, abundant and renewable resources. This research addresses a long-standing transportation problem that will benefit both the citizens and corn farmers in North Dakota, aligning with the land-grant mission of NDSU,” said Yellavajjala.

According to Yellavajjala, the organization’s research advisory committee annually asks states to identify high-value research projects and compiles the top 16 projects in the nation in a document titled "Research Impacts: Better – Faster – Cheaper.” The publication is a quick reference to high-value projects and helps eliminate or reduce duplication of research.

Selected projects are featured during AASHTO events and in a publication, “Research Makes a Difference.” They also are the subject of a session at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting.

In the project, Yellavajjala’s group proposed corn-derived compounds as sustainable deicing enhancers to corrosive and environmentally impactful rock salt. The researchers developed several blends of deicers by combining corn-derived alcohols with salt brine in different proportions.

They measured the performance of the different polyol-brine solutions based on freezing-point depression, corrosion inhibition and ice-melting capacity. By adding varying amounts of corn-derived polyols to deicing salts, they improved the freezing point from -6°F to -37.5 °F, doubled the ice melting capacity at sub-freezing temperatures and cut the corrosion rates by up to 92%.

“We are currently investigating the synthesis of bio-based products for mitigating various damage mechanisms in civil infrastructure,” Yellavajjala said.

Two graduate students from civil engineering, Hizb Ullah Sajid and Dayakar Naik Lavadiya, worked on the project. Dilpreet Bajwa, a former NDSU mechanical engineering faculty member, is a collaborator on the research.

Yellavajjala joined the NDSU faculty in 2016. He earned his bachelor’s degree at SRKR engineering college, Andhra University, India; master’s degree in civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India; and doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

His research focuses on sustainable infrastructure solutions, computational mechanics, and the theory and applications of Artificial Intelligence.

The award-winning research project was sponsored by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council.

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