Contact: Mona S.Rowe,(516) 282-2345 or
Diane Greenberg, (516) 282-2347

Mailed 11/16/95


Upton, NY -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has organized the National Infrastructure Center for Engineering Systems and Technology Initiative (NICEST) to develop, demonstrate and rapidly implement new infrastructure technologies. The consortium has been formed to help rebuild the nation's deteriorated roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, dams, tunnels, railroads, airports, etc., at much lower cost and with longer-lasting results than would be possible using current technologies.

Using traditional repair methods, the U.S. would have to spend $150 billion annually on infrastructure over the next 20 years to stop further deterioration and fix the worst deficiencies. Even more funds will be needed for improvements and expansion to accommodate an ever-increasing population.

"We could cut the cost of repairing and rebuilding the infrastructure in half by combining the expertise and resources of NICEST, " said James Powell, who, along with Morris Reich, cofounded NICEST. Both are senior engineers at Brookhaven's Department of Advanced Technology. "Many new technologies developed by the national labs and the defense industry can be readily adapted to infrastructure needs," Dr. Powell continued. "These technologies could enable breakthroughs in rapid construction, lower cost, better maintenance and repair, precise and quick diagnosis of deficiencies, and much longer operational life."

In addition to Brookhaven, NICEST's initial members include the defense contractor Northrop-Grumman, the architectural engineering company Raytheon-Ebasco, and 13 leading universities in the New York State region. As NICEST grows, additional industrial, laboratory and academic organizations are expected to join the consortium, which has been initially funded with $500,000 by the New York State Science and Technology Foundation.

The consortium is developing a number of new technologies that are expected to yield major payoffs in the near future. These include a rapid, trench-opening robot, or RAPTOR, a high-speed concrete cutter that will be much faster than jackhammers or concrete saws; "ironable" asphalt that allows rapid restoration of deteriorated roadways to a like-new condition; and magnetic imaging, or MAGI, a technique to magnetically sense the location and state of corrosion of underground pipes.

NICEST will use an integrated systems approach to develop new infrastructure technologies, carrying through each project from the research phase to field implementation. Dr. Reich explained, "It's not enough to just develop a new material or widget. To actually get to the marketplace, it must be integrated into a system that is tested at full-scale under realistic conditions with the participation of industry and the appropriate code committees."

The consortium plans to develop comprehensive computer data bases on infrastructure technologies and projects so that contractors can use the newest and most efficient methods. It also plans to establish a full-scale user facility at Brookhaven to test new technologies under realistic field conditions, with the participation of industry. For workers in the field using the new technologies, NICEST experts would be available to help, using two-way communication links via high-definition, large-screen television.

"In addition to improving the nation's infrastructure, we expect that NICEST could bring thousands of new high-tech jobs to New York State, and particularly to Long Island," Dr. Powell said. "It will also provide support for New York State colleges to help them continue their leadership role in training students for technical careers."

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.


NOTE TO EDITORS: With Gordon Danby of Brookhaven National Laboratory, James Powell is the co-inventor of Maglev, a high-speed magnetically levitated train that is now being tested in Japan. Morris Reich is an expert in structural engineering.