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The Australian railway industry has the sixth largest permanent railway track in the world. Every year the railway industry requires millions of railway sleepers. The traditional railway sleepers predominantly are made of concrete, timber, and steel. These current sleeper materials have economic and environmental limitations regarding recycling and carbon emissions throughout their life cycle. In fact, none of these existing sleepers meets the key sustainable criterial e.g., cost effectiveness, performance, and environmental sustainability.
To find a sustainable sleeper material, several research have been conducted on waste-based composite sleeper materials as it has many advantages including high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent resistance against corrosion, moisture, and insects, thermal and electrical conductivity, and environmentally friendly. For example, the recent development of recycled plastic sleeper offers good environmental sustainability, but their strength and stiffness are significantly lower than traditional timber sleepers. On the other hand, some companies have developed fibre based composite sleepers and they are performing very similar to timber sleepers, but five times more expensive than traditional timber sleepers. Therefore, an alternative material and design for the development of railway sleeper is essential at this stage.
In this study, an investigation will be conducted on Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) pultruded hollow profile filled with waste-based composite wood and plastic panels. The bond behaviour of these composite panels with different surface treatment and cementitious materials will be studied. The GFRP profiles will be tested under the three-point bending at variable span lengths to understand load carrying capacity and the patterns of failure behaviour. The best core material among the investigated specimens will be identified. The overall outcome of this study will provide a good understanding of the structural performance of the proposed sleeper concept.
A comparative analysis between existing and proposed sleepers will provide a good understanding about the carbon emission aspects of the proposed sleeper concepts. In this study, a simplified carbon emission calculator will be developed that will assist researchers and end users to calculate carbon emission from their designed product. The overall outcome of this research will provide an in-depth understanding about the behaviour of proposed railway sleeper concepts and benefit railway industry to find a sustainable sleeper as an alternative to conventional railway sleeper which is very much aligned with Australia's vision of net zero carbon emission plan 2050.
For more information, please email the Graduate Research School or phone 0746 31 1088.