Advanced Materials and Technologies for Public Works Infrastructure Projects

Published - Feb 2008| Analyst - Andrew McWilliams| Code - AVM062A
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Report Highlights

This Report:

  • The U.S. market for advanced materials and subassemblies for public works increased from $7 billion in 2006 to $7.5 billion in 2007. It should reach $12 billion by 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10%.
  • Highway construction and rehabilitation is by far the largest market for advanced materials and subassemblies and will account for 78% of the market in 2012.
  • Bridges are the second largest segment of the market. Accounting for 3.7% of the market in 2006, they are expected to comprise 9.2% by 2012.


Several high-profile incidents have focused attention on deficiencies in the public works infrastructure of the U.S., which includes bridges, tunnels, highways, roads, railroads, airports, canals, dams, dikes, artificial harbors, and some pipelines. The most recent such incident was the collapse of the Interstate 35-W bridge in Minnesota that ran over the Mississippi River in 2007-08-15, which plunged dozens of cars and their occupants into the river, killed 13 people, and caused traffic problems that will continue for years to come.

Two years earlier, in August 2005, the levees and floodwalls protecting the city of New Orleans failed at multiple points during Hurricane Katrina, flooding much of the city. The official death toll in New Orleans from the hurricane and flooding was more than 1,300 people, and property damage was in the tens of billions of dollars.

The deficiencies are not limited to bridges and levees, and disasters are not always necessary to call attention to the deteriorating state of the U.S. public works infrastructure. The condition of the pavement on highways and roads throughout the country is a case in point.

Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration indicate that the percentage of total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on pavements with acceptable ride quality has decreased over the past several years. The overall deterioration adversely impacts travel in many ways, including increased wear and tear on vehicle suspensions and tires; delays associated with vehicles slowing to avoid potholes or other road damage; crashes caused by drivers losing control of their vehicles; and reductions in fuel economy.

The solution to many of these problems lies in the construction materials and other technologies used to build and maintain the bridges, roads, and other public works. As of the writing of this report (i.e., 2007-11-15), the cause of the Minneapolis bridge collapse is still unknown, although there is belief that corrosion may have played a role, as it did in the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia, which killed 46 people.

An investigation found that that the Silver Bridge disaster resulted from stress corrosion and corrosion fatigue in the carbon steel of which the Silver Bridge was constructed. The investigators also claimed that the conditions that caused the collapse could not have been detected in advance unless the bridge had been taken apart and tested. This finding underlines the importance of material selection in ensuring the longevity and safety of public works projects, as well as the importance of nondestructive testing technologies to accurately monitor structural integrity on an ongoing basis.

The debate over funding the cost of repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure, which has become more public in the aftermath of the Minneapolis disaster, has highlighted another fact: The financial resources to pay for the needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, which according to some estimates could ultimately total more than a trillion dollars, are presently unavailable.

In particular, the Federal Highway Fund, which is supposed to finance the lion's share of road and safety projects, is expected to have a negative balance by 2010 or 2011. Proposals to finance the cost of bridge repairs by increasing the federal gasoline tax have been met with significant political opposition. As a result of these financial pressures, cost effectiveness should be added to long service life and safety as key criteria for choosing appropriate construction materials and technologies.


This report contains:


  • Descriptions of various advanced materials and technologies for public works including metals and alloys, superior performing asphalt pavements, high performance concrete, fiber-reinforced polymer composites, geopolymers, geosynthetics, smart materials and advanced structural subassemblies.
  • The current market status of advanced materials and technologies for the public works industry, with trends and forecasts for growth over the next 5 years
  • Discussion of new technologies and a thorough patent analysis
  • Analysis of the advanced materials and technologies for public works in the U.S., both from a market and application perspective
  • Profiles of the major developers and manufacturers of advanced infrastructure materials and technologies



The findings and conclusions of this report are based on information gathered from a wide range of sources, including infrastructure operators, vendors, and engineering and consulting firms. Interview data were combined with information gathered through an extensive review of secondary sources such as trade publications, trade associations, company literature, and on-line databases to produce the projections contained in this report.

The base-year for analysis and projection is 2006. With 2006 as a baseline, market projections were developed for period ranging from 2007 to 2012. These projections are based on a consensus among the primary contacts combined with our understanding of the key market drivers and their impact from a historical and analytical perspective.

The methodologies and assumptions used to develop the market projections in this report are discussed at length under the various types of airport technology addressed. The report carefully documents data sources and assumptions. Thus, readers can see how the market estimates were developed and can test the impact on the final numbers of changing assumptions (e.g., price).


Andrew McWilliams, the author of this report, is a partner in the 43rd Parallel LLC, the Boston-based international technology and marketing consulting firm. He is also the author of numerous other Business Communications Company studies, including the recent The Global Market for Advanced Airport Technologies (IAS024A), and Nondestructive Testing (MFG016E). Mr. McWilliams has written other reports concerning advanced materials applications, including Lightweight Materials in Transportation (AVM056A), Advanced Materials and Devices for Renewable Energy Systems (EGY053A), and Materials and Devices for High Performance Sports Products (AVM053A).

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