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Large refrigerated complex for intermediate-scale studies

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CRREL’s Materials Evaluation Facility is a large cold-room facility that can be set up at temperatures ranging from −20°F to 120°F with a temperature change rate of 10°F per hour.  The building is 45 × 22 feet with a 12.5-foot-high ceiling and large (11.5-foot-high and 11-foot-wide) bay doors, which allow easy access for large vehicles, equipment and full-scale models. The facility is also equipped with snow-making, freezing-rain and sleet-making capabilities.

Previous activities in the facility include:

  • Evaluating the performance of systems in cold weather conditions (snow, freezing rain and ice formation)
  • Testing and evaluating U.S. Air Force asphalt transport systems in cold weather
  • Detecting oil under sea ice
  • Evaluating the performance of CRREL-developed cold-weather concrete pavement and flowable fill technologies
  • Quantifying ice adhesion behavior on material

A Flexible Research Facility

The MEF provides several unique benefits for cold engineering studies. First, it serves as a cost-effective, intermediate-sized cold room (larger than all 26 rooms in the cold-room complex and smaller than the Research Area in the Ice Engineering Facility) with the same low and high temperature capabilities. Heavy equipment (fully loaded dump trucks and cargo containers up to 20-foot military containers) can be easily transported inside the facility for a variety of research investigations. 

The MEF also serves as an integral part of many research activities in the adjacent Frost Effects Research Facility by providing wider temperature ranges, snow and ice production, and other complimentary features.

Success Stories

The U.S. Air Force frequently encounters damage to airfields and other pavements due to a variety of threats in contingency environments. In these situations, the primary focus is speed—minimal time for Airmen preparation, materials acquisition, materials setting and strength gain, and results variability due to physical security considerations and other practical environmental constraints.

ERDC responded to the Air Force’s needs by developing novel flowable-fill and rapid-setting concrete materials, focusing on speed and meeting other constraints: easy-to-use materials with a long shelf life, simple mixing and Airmen QA/QC procedures, rapid strength gain and compatible with existing Air Force equipment (Simplified Volumetric Mixer) and with sub-freezing temperatures (ground and ambient). These materials achieve full strength in 2 to 3 hours at 23°F compared with at least 7 days for conventional materials at moderate temperatures, saving money and time, reducing site exposure and are user-friendly. The Materials Evaluation Facility was critical to the project’s success by allowing intermediate scale testing at low cost prior to full-scale (100 ft) airfield expedient repair testing in the Frost Effects Research Facility (FERF). 

The MEF also served as an effective, cost-efficient facility to test the Air Force’s prototype asphalt portable storage systems in moderate to extreme environments (−15 to 50°F).


  • Refrigeration: −20°F to ambient year-round with high temperatures possible (see facility manager)
  • Test area: Concrete pad accommodates heavy vehicles and equipment loads
  • Office space: 2 to 3 work stations, storage, automated temperature and other controls monitoring in MEF, heat/AC, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, phone and printing.

Work with Us

Our capabilities and facilities are available to assist you in addressing and solving a variety of cold regions science and engineering challenges. Contact us for rate information and to schedule your project. Additional documentation available.


ERDCinfo@usace.army.mil, 603-646-4491

crrel ERDC Materials Evaluation Facility MEF USACE