Transport infrastructure engineer, Dr James Maina, has been selected as the 2010 recipient of the prestigious JD Roberts Award. He is recognised nationally and internationally for outstanding research towards finding solutions for large and detailed problems in his field of expertise.
Dr James Maina of the CSIR (second from the left), winner of the 2010 JD Roberts Award, with Dr Chris Rust of CSIR Built Environment, Carien Botha, Innovations Executive at Murray & Roberts, Susan Leuner, daughter of the late Dr JD Roberts, and Group Chief Executive of Murray & Roberts, Brian Bruce
Through their research, Maina and his CSIR team predict how road structures will perform over a period of time. This information enables road owners to perform proper design, rehabilitation and maintenance planning, taking all variables into account.
Maina last year became the CSIR's first black chief researcher, which is the highest ranking within the CSIR's research career ladder progression. His outstanding leadership in the advancement of science, engineering and technology is clear within the CSIR, as well as in his participation in numerous national and international professional bodies.
Now in its 30th year, the annual JD Roberts Award is sponsored by Murray & Roberts and held in partnership with the CSIR. Instituted by Murray & Roberts in 1980 in remembrance of one of the group's founding fathers, Dr JD 'Douglas' Roberts, the award recognises and promotes competitive and environmentally-sustainable solutions to human dilemmas and encourages scientific research into technology that will enhance the quality of life of all South Africans.
Douglas Roberts was a doyen of the construction industry in South Africa, well known for his innovation, entrepreneurial flair and passion for seeking and trying new techniques and ways of doing things. It is in this spirit that the JD Roberts Award is presented annually, recognising talent and research within the CSIR.
Maina is the project leader of a multiyear, multimillion-rand project on the improvement of the South African Pavement Design Method (SAPDM). The project is in support of external research and development contracts funded by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL).
Putting his expertise to practical use, Maina has developed a number of computer software packages, one of which is called GAMES (General Analysis for Mutlilayered Elastic Systems). GAMES was originally developed to assist the Japanese industry in the evaluation of road and airport road structures. Japan now uses GAMES as a standard tool for determining displacements, stresses and strains on roads, and even airports. It was used in expansion projects at the second largest airport in Japan - the Tokyo International Airport.
GAMES has also been used in projects at two airports in Namibia and one in the Eastern Cape for determining the load bearing capacity of airport road structures. Locally, GAMES will also be used as the analysis engine for the new SAPDM.
Maina's work, based on wave propagation techniques, allows the use of information from laboratory and field tests for road evaluation, leading to a better understanding of the effect of moving vehicular loading. This is very important for road and airport road rehabilitation work where more accurate and realistic properties of road layers will be obtained by using optimisation algorithms with wave propagation techniques.
Over the past decade, Maina has published more than 60 research publications, in both Japanese and English, in scientific journals and in the proceedings of local and international conferences. He has also produced a reference book and several commissioned publications.
Research projects that Maina currently leads at the CSIR include:
- Improved ability to model the circular-shaped complex, non-uniform distribution of the contact stress between tyres and pavement surfaces
- Improved modelling of contact stress ability to model the rectangular-shaped complex, non-uniform distribution of the contact stress
- Improved modelling of geometric non-linearity in pavement systems
- Documenting material testing, interpreting results, deriving design inputs and calibrating material models
- Identifying the relationship between stiffness of pavement materials as determined from different field and laboratory testing methods
- Development of a finite element package for pavement engineering applications
- Structural evaluation of layered structures based on wave propagation considering materials' damping effect.