Quest For Innovation At The Trenchless Technology Center

November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11
Figure 3. FutureScan module in deployment

Since 1991, the Trenchless Technology Center (TTC) at Louisiana Tech University has been working to develop its role in support of the development of trenchless technologies and the more effective installation and management of the nation’s buried infrastructure.

Early projects tended to focus on improving the understanding and design of the core trenchless technologies applied to both installation and rehabilitation of buried utilities, and to support the various associations that were providing information to municipalities and other utility owners to encourage them to adopt the latest technologies.

With the basic trenchless methods widely accepted and well-enough understood for most applications, the role of the TTC has had the opportunity to shift in recent years. It now has a more active role as an innovation engine for the industry coupled with a continued quest to understand the fundamental performance issues associated with various trenchless methods. This work continues to be guided by the TTC’s Industry Advisory Board which is made up of representatives from municipalities and utilities, key industry companies in the trenchless technology field, consulting engineering firms and relevant associations (see sidebar).

The ability to conduct cutting edge research in most fields today requires the collaboration of various specialists that can combine knowledge in the application needs, sensors and instrumentation, simulation and computing and user interface development. It also requires extensive research equipment and testing capabilities both for sensor development and testing as well as for the pilot scale demonstration of the final product.

Such developments have been possible in the TTC through collaboration with faculty across the College of Engineering and Science – including faculty in Civil Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science. It has also been made possible by major enhancements in the TTC’s research facilities – including a new research building dedicated in 2007 (which was built with major contributions from the trenchless technology industry) and substantial research equipment enhancements made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation and major research project investments. Investments in research equipment and instrumentation alone have totaled $2 million over the past eight years.