Department of Transportation (DOT, incl. Federal Highway Administration, FHWA)

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sees great promise in the application of nanotechnology to help solve long-term highway and transportation research needs in support of DOT’s strategic goals: Safety, Livable Communities, State of Good Repair, Economic Competitiveness, and Environmental Sustainability. By strategically investing in focused research areas and leveraging investments in nanoscale technology by other NNI partners and Federal agencies, industry, and academia, FHWA aims to accelerate the capability to provide safer, more efficient, longerlasting highway transportation systems. Based on the findings of a March 2009 workshop of experts from academia, DOT, and other Federal agencies, FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program is investing in nanoscale research to address key highway research issues in infrastructure, safety, operations, and the environment. Nanotechnology promises breakthroughs in multiple areas, offering a potential for synergy and benefits across many traditional highway research focus areas.

The development of innovative materials and coatings can deliver significant improvements in durability, performance, and resiliency of highway and transportation infrastructure components. Nanoscale engineering of traditional transportation infrastructure materials (e.g., steel, concrete, asphalt, and other cementitious materials, as well as recycled forms of these materials) offers great promise. Developments in nanoscale sensors and devices may provide cost-effective opportunities to embed and employ structural health monitoring systems to continuously monitor corrosion, material degradation, and performance of structures and pavements under service loads and conditions. In addition, these developments might provide multifunctional properties to traditional infrastructure materials, such as the ability to generate or transmit energy. Nanoscale sensors and devices may also enable a costeffective infrastructure that communicates with vehicle-based systems to assist drivers with tasks such as maintaining lane position, avoiding collisions at intersections, and modifying or coordinating travel behavior to mitigate congestion or adverse environmental impacts. Other environmental applications include sensors to monitor mobile source pollutants and air, water, and soil quality.

FHWA’s long-term strategy is to continue targeted investment in select areas while building an appreciation for highway research needs with NNI partners and the broader nanoscale research community in order to augment longstanding partnerships and make significant progress toward improving the nation’s highway and transportation systems.


Dr. Jonathan Porter
Chief Scientist, Office of Research, Development, and Technology, Federal Highway Administration,


Mr. Peter Chipman
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology