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      UTPA students work to reduce train derailments

      Improving railway safety is now a priority at The University of Texas - Pan American.

      "One of the main things you hear about is derailments and when derailments happen, they cost millions of dollars," UTPA mechanical engineering graduate student Daniel Balsadua said.

      "They can also cost lives."

      The university TMs president announced the opening of Transportation for Railway Safety Center after receiving a $3 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.

      The center is now one of 20 institutions in the entire country that focuses on this type of mechanical engineering.

      "Railroads are more important than you ever dreamed they were," UTPA President Dr. Robert Nelsen said. "They can transport so much more than the simple truck we see all over the place."

      Balsadua is researching nano fibers at the new center.

      "I'm developing a new composite material to replace these pads," he said.

      The pads he is talking about sits between wheels on a train and the train car.

      Over time the weight of train cars flatten the pads and they need to be replaced.

      Balsadua is using cutting edge technology to create a new material infused with nano fibers to make a pad that is more durable and can withstand the stress of a heavy load.

      "We will actually reduce derailments and make the whole rail car system safer," he said.

      More research on the mechanics of trains is needed to make the transport of raw materials safer.

      By creating the new center, the university is now only making better train parts, they are also opening opportunities for students who are getting hands on experience in railway safety mechanics.