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August 17, 2009 | last updated December 1, 2011 1:13 am

Federal transportation head visits Orono

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to visit Orono today to check out a composite technology developed at the University of Maine that is expected to make building bridges more efficient.

LaHood is interested in the "bridge in a backpack" technology developed at UMaine's Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center, according to the Associated Press. The technology involves hollow composite tubes that can be shipped in a bag to any construction site, inflated on site, bent to the necessary shape and infused with a resin to become rigid overnight. The composite arches are then filled with concrete and are said to be more durable than traditionally built concrete arches. The bridges can be built quickly, reducing shipping and labor costs, according to Joe Carr from the University of Maine.

UMaine spun off a private company, Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, in February with the goal of commercializing the composite bridge construction technology.

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