Back in the late 1980s, UA civil engineering professors Mo Ehsani, PhD, and others spent their days pioneering research into a new material, fiber-reinforced polymers, that would enrobe construction projects to strengthen them.
“We developed these products for retrofitting existing buildings and bridges to make them safer for earthquakes,” Ehsani recalls of their work in the UA department of civil engineering and engineering mechanics.
Moving Research to Commercialization
Following the destructive 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif., Ehsani received calls from engineering friends who wanted to use the polymer coating to fix damaged buildings. It led him to form QuakeWrap Inc. while still a professor.
He quickly found himself consulting with contractors who wanted to install carbon fabric linings inside existing concrete water and gas pipelines to address deterioration, damage and failure.
In order to focus on the growing diversification of his business, he left the UA as professor emeritus of civil engineering in 2010.
Newest Product From UA Research
His most recent product, what he calls InfinitPipe, is the latest evolution from that work so many years ago. By figuring out how to make carbon fabric thinner–inserting a honeycomb between two layers of carbon–Ehsani can offer a strong, cost-effective pipe, not just a lining.
The manufacturing process allows for the building of a jointless pipe of any size, shape and length, reducing the number of stress points that can fail. By creating the customized pipe at the job site, product transportation costs are reduced.
“We have had a lot of inquiries,” says Ehsani, “including a couple of fracking operations in the United States.”
With the help of UA mechanical engineering design students, Ehsani is developing the equipment that would produce the pipe at the job site, which is key to creating a customized, jointless length.
He’s also looking for investors to develop and manufacture the equipment.
Success Began at the University of Arizona
QuakeWrap’s products and manufacturing methods and Ehsani’s business success can trace their beginnings to UA labs.
“All this relates to those materials and the work we were doing at the University of Arizona,” Ehsani says.
Back then there was little thought on how to commercialize those breakthroughs, he admits. Researchers published papers, but couldn’t get patents. “More recently we’ve become wiser a little bit.”