Engineering prof awarded grant to study tire uses

Gabe Davis

Ruochuan Gu, assistant professor in civil and construction engineering, has been awarded a $59,000 grant to study the use of old tires for erosion control in rivers.

“The idea is to find a technically economical way to prevent erosion that is also economically feasible,” Gu said.

Gu’s idea is to create a river stabilization structure to replace cement structures.

It involves tying tires together, weighting them down and placing them both on the banks and shores of rivers and lakes, as well as across rivers, to act as dams.

Because there are so many tires and they take up a large amount of space in landfills, Gu thought they would be the perfect material for his study.

One of his reasons for this study was to protect bridges from river erosion, he said.

Another effect of the tires in the water would be to raise the water level and catch sediments to prevent erosion.

Bob Lohnes, university professor of civil and construction engineering, is assisting Gu in his study.

Lohnes is studying the possibility of using cement or natural soil and flyesh, a residue that’s a by-product of burning coal to add weight to the tires.

“Filling the tires with some sort of material will help the tires to resist the flow force of water washing them downstream,” Gu said.

The concept of using the tires as dams is similar to that of concrete or dirt dams but would be smaller, he said.

Gu brainstormed the concepts behind the study about two years ago at a western Iowa environmental convention that explored ways of erosion control less expensive than concrete blocks and “riprap,” broken-up pieces of concrete on the shores of lakes.

He will be doing most of the research on campus in engineering labs.

Gu’s grant came from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., as part of the Landfill Alternative Management Program.