CESS Seminar : From Concept to Completion : The Journey of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers in Bridge Construction


Event details

Date 06.10.2023
Hour 12:1513:00
Speaker Prof. Urs Meier (EMPA)
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
In the early 1980s, a small group of researchers began exploring the potential of fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP) for use in bridge construction. Most of them focused on glass, some on aramid, and few, like at Empa, on carbon fibers. In Switzerland, KWF, now known as Innosuisse, supported two Empa projects: the development of parallel wire tendons made of unidirectional carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP), and a post-strengthening concept for steel reinforced concrete bridges using thin unidirectional CFRP strips. However, significant obstacles arose, such as the transfer of high longitudinal stresses into anchorage systems and concrete structures.

Nevertheless, full-scale CFRP pilot applications in bridge construction succeeded in the 1990s. The CFRP post-strengthening technique quickly became a state-of-the-art solution worldwide and a commercial success. CFRP tendons as stay or post-tensioning cables in early sponsored projects proved to be very reliable and technically successful. Nevertheless, there were no follow-up projects. Despite the successes of the pilot projects, building authorities were slow to acknowledge the outstanding properties of CFRP tendons, including corrosion resistance, outstanding fatigue properties, and lightweight for tendons.
In 2021, a large network arch railway bridge near Stuttgart, with all hangers made of CFRP tendons, broke the ice. Researchers and engineers demonstrated that the CFRP solution is not only more economic but also much more sustainable. Further large bridges of this type are already under construction. New visions continue to emerge, such as the possibility of producing structural CFRP components from CO2 captured from the air. Ultimately, the progress and continued development of CFRP technology are paving the way for a more sustainable and efficient future in bridge construction.

Short bio
Urs Meier has held various positions at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). In 1989, he was promoted to the rank of Managing Director of Empa in Dübendorf, a position that he held until his retirement. Additionally, he has been a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Throughout his career, he has made significant contributions to the application of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers (CFRP) in civil engineering, earning worldwide recognition for his pioneering research. Notably, his work on post-strengthening civil structures with CFRP laminates and the application of CFRP stay-and post-tensioning cables has had a significant impact on the field. Currently, he serves as a technology consultant for the application of CFRP in bridge construction at Empa.

Sandwiches offered after the seminar

Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Free


  • Prof. Olga Fink (IMOS), Prof. Alexandre Alahi (VITA), Prof. Dusan Licina (HOBEL), Prof. Alain Nussbaumer (RESSLab)


  • Prof. Thomas Keller (CCLAB)



Event broadcasted in