Winning awards has become a regular event for the AEWC Advanced Structures & Composites Center at the University of Maine, but its director, Habib Dagher, was excited Wednesday.

For the third year in a row, a technology developed by the center has been honored by the American Composite Manufacturers Association in its annual conference and trade show.

The center’s Bridge in a Backpack received the Most Creative Application Award for Composites Excellence, or ACE, while a composite beam technology the UM center developed with spinoff company Harbor Technologies of Brunswick received the Infinite Possibilities ACE.

The ACEs are the top honors in the industry, and only five are awarded each year.

“For our industry, this is the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl,” Dagher said via phone from Las Vegas, where the conference is being held. “It’s very exciting news for the university and the state of Maine. It puts us on the map, because folks are talking about us winning two out of five awards.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud issued a statement congratulating UMaine.

“This award further highlights that the University of Maine’s cutting-edge research and development into composites is second to none,” the 2nd District Democrat said. “I have been pleased to work with the talented group at UMaine over the years to secure investments for this important homegrown project. Its adoption nation-wide would create jobs here in Maine, but also save our nation money on much-needed bridge construction projects.”

The Most Creative Application ACE recognizes the application of composite materials that is most imaginative and innovative, as determined by a panel of composites industry judges. The Infinite Possibility ACE recognizes products that demonstrate the potential to increase the use of composites in the market.

The Advanced Structures & Composites Center won the same award last year for its blast- and disaster-resistant recyclable panels for temporary shelters.

The center won the Best of Show the year before last for its modular ballistic protection system, which was also given the People’s Choice Award by conference attendees.

The Bridge in a Backpack, which was introduced in February 2009, uses carbon-fiber tubes that are inflated, shaped into arches and infused with resin before being moved into place. The tubes then are filled with concrete, producing arches that are harder than steel yet resistant to corrosion. Finally, the arches are overlaid with a fiber-reinforced decking and buried under several feet of dirt and sand.

When deflated, each bridge arch fits into a sack roughly the size of a hockey equipment bag — hence the bridge-in-a-backpack moniker — which makes for easy transport.

The technology is touted as being cheaper, easier to install, longer-lasting and better for the environment than traditional bridges.

ACMA represents 850 of approximately 3,000 composites manufacturers and suppliers to the industry.