A University of Texas at Arlington expert in pipe technology is investigating whether steam sealing of repaired pipes release a noxious fume and how dangerous that is to people.
Mohammad Najafi, professor in practice in the Department of Civil Engineering, is leading the $53,000 research project, which is sponsored by the National Association of Sewer Service Companies. Najafi also is director of UTA's Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education or CUIRE.
"Cured-in-place pipe or CIPP technology has been around for several decades," Najafi said. "Now, there is some new research showing that when you use steam to seal the repairs in these pipes, it emits styrene, a noxious fume. This project will elevate this new research and look at what's available in previous research areas to address any problems that may arise."
Najafi also said he would suggest project sites to test and recommend how workers who use the steam curing for the mended pipes could be protected.
Eventually, future projects in this research area would take air samples around some of the mended pipes to determine the concentration of these fumes.
In an October 2017 issue of Trenchless Technology, Lynn Osborn, technical director at NASSCO, wrote that the association takes worker and public safety and the accuracy of information very seriously.
That's why the latest research is being vetted by Najafi.
Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department and Dr. Tseng Huang Endowed Professor, said Najafi's research serves as an industry leader and will guide the industry to best practices in the future.
"This is important research not only for the industry but for society," Abolmaali said. "Dr. Najafi's work will ensure that processes the industry are using are safe or need to be changed to make them safe."
Najafi also recently was awarded a $400,000 grant from six state transportation departments and a national cooperative to develop design methodologies for lining storm-water pipes with a sprayed polymer or cement-like material coating that can extend the design life of those pipes.
He also has done several projects with the Texas Department of Transportation, industry leaders and research foundations.
UTA has become a worldwide leader in pipe technology through the efforts of Najafi, Abolmaali and others in civil engineering.
Abolmaali recently worked with industry associations and colleagues around the globe to establish a new standard for fiber-reinforced pipe. Those new standards are being used in projects Abolmaali is working on in Texas and Florida.
He also has worked with the city of Arlington to assess sewer pipe condition using a robot.