Two Examples of Geomembranes as Innovative Construction Materials

Felon Wilson on Jul 10, 2024 8:28:58 AM

For several years, the U.S. Congress has considered legislation encouraging the use of innovative construction materials. A specific bill termed “Innovative Materials in American Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded” or called “IMAGINE,” was first introduced in 2018. It was again introduced in 2021 as a result of the increased infrastructure expenditures anticipated for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also in 2021. While the bill has not been previously approved and enacted, it was reintroduced in November 2023. As a summary, IMAGINE has these principal goals: 

  • Improve infrastructure and resilience.
  • Encourage research and development of innovative construction materials in transportation.
  • Invest in new techniques and materials that could extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings for condition and performance.
  • Fund research into new markets and building techniques; Spur Federal investment in bridge and water infrastructure projects.

While much emphasis is placed on composites technology, the spirit of the bill is for innovation in construction materials. The geomembrane industry has been a leader in construction materials innovation for three fourths of a century. These products have been, and continue to be, lower cost, sustainable materials. Two of the latest innovations are described as follows. 

  1. Protection of Geofoam – As an alternative to natural fill, Geofoam is heavily used in transportation applications including bridges and slopes. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), termed Geofoam in the geosynthetics industry, is by composition, a carbon-based material that is miscible with most petroleum products. In transportation applications, there are numerous ways petroleum can potentially contact Geofoam. To protect the lightweight geofoam, high strength composite geomembranes are used as liquid and vapor barriers against any contact with hydrocarbons. Geomembranes in these applications must resist many hydrocarbon products, and these same products in suspensions with water. Construction is often in tight site conditions, demanding robust products with high physical strength vs. weight. For more information on geomembrane protection of Geofoam, visit our blog post here.

    folded and wrapped geofoam

    Geofoam protected by the XR-5 Geomembrane
    Ohio, USA

  2. Management of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) Water and wastewater systems are among the costliest and most widely used portions of municipal infrastructure. Most wastewater collection systems are plagued with overflows as a result of extraneous water (stormwater primarily) finding its way into the pipes. Correcting these problems within the piping networks is very expensive and limited in success. Rather than completely rebuild ageing municipal wastewater collection systems, geomembrane lined SSO impoundments provide a cost-effective, environmentally secure solution. By using thermally stable, high puncture and chemically resistant reinforced barriers, a resilient solution is provided. This application requires the geomembrane to be left sunlight exposed with no protective cover, to allow cleaning and minimal odor generation. Additional information on this state-of-the-art use of geomembranes can be found here.

SSO Impoundment Tulsa, OKXR-5 Geomembrane lined SSO Impoundments 
Tulsa, OK USA 

The term “composite” describes a substance or material composed of multiple parts that join to create properties or performance when blended into a single unit. Many lightweight solutions are composites that reduce bulk by integrating features, when together, accomplish the same (or better) outcome as traditional technologies. Such is the case with the XR-5 Ethylene Co-Polymer geomembrane. It derives Chemical/Environmental resistance from the polymeric coating, and survivability from the internal reinforcement. The composite structure then provides a lightweight, high strength and high modulus of elasticity hydraulic and solvent vapor barrier. 

One of the sponsors of the IMAGINE Act states that to properly modernize our infrastructure, we need to use the most durable, cost-effective composite materials available to rebuild roads, bridges, water systems and other key infrastructure. Properly manufactured, selected, designed, and installed composite geomembranes meet those criteria. 

More information on the IMAGINE Act can be found here.

Topics: geomembrane, geomembrane properties, geomembrane chemical resistance, XR-5 Geomembrane, geomembrane systems, eps geofoam applications, eps geofoam, transportation and infrastructure, infrastructure, sanitary sewer overflows, sso impoundments

New call-to-action

Follow Us:

Subscribe to Email Updates

New call-to-action

Recent Posts