Using wireless sensors to monitor bridge safety

Feb 23, 2009
This is principal investigator and chair of the University of Texas Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Sharon Wood, and University of Texas Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering professor Dean Neikirk. Credit: Erin McCarley

University of Texas (UT) professor, Dean Neikirk, will be field-testing a new bridge monitoring system within the year. The project is a collaboration between industry, government, and academia that will provide real-time monitoring of dangerous bridges and reduce inspection costs for all bridges.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, deferred maintenance has left one-quarter of the nation's bridges deficient. Congress mandated 2-year inspections in 1971, but at least 17,000 bridges did not meet the requirement in 2008, including 3 out of every 100 freeway bridges. More alarming, the average age of America's bridges is 43 years out of an average 50-year life span.

"Most bridges have already been built," says Neikirk. "Our project will develop simple, low-cost equipment that can be used to retrofit existing construction as well as in new construction, but we are primarily concerned with ensuring that bridges do not fail without warning. Most aging bridges do not necessarily require replacement, they just need to be monitored for signs of corrosion and wear."

Neikirk and principal investigator and UT Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Chair Sharon L. Wood are developing a network of low-power wireless sensors capable of capturing and transmitting data to a central location. They already have working sensors, a data collection methodology, and specifications for sensor placement. Researchers are working on (1) powering sensors with solar, wind, or traffic vibrations instead of batteries, (2) ensuring the sensor output is compatible with National Instruments (NI) equipment that will be collecting the data and that NI equipment is rugged enough for outdoor use, and (3) preventing the steel structures from interfering with the radio signals used to transmit data.

"We are resolving the last few technical issues before our field-testing begins—probably within the year and probably in Texas," says Neikirk. "We hope that the immediate effect will be ensuring Texas bridges are inspected more frequently and for much less money. We also hope to partner with a commercial developer who can take this technology and help make it commercially available."

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: Revealing faded frescos

Related Stories

Philips Hue and Apple's HomeKit to be house mates

Jun 09, 2015

Philips has announced that its Hue intelligent lighting system will be compatible with Apple's HomeKit smart home platform later this year. The lights will be able to be controlled from that smart-home pl ...

Fantasies play out in virtual reality games

Jun 17, 2015

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo players swooped like eagles through Paris, blasted asteroids, and fought in boxing rings as videogame makers dove into worlds of virtual reality.

Managing the “Internet of Things

May 29, 2015

Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a software platform designed to manage and control devices for "Internet of Things" (IoT) systems. The platform can be tailored for everything from city management ...

Recommended for you

Revealing faded frescos

19 hours ago

Many details of the wall and ceiling frescos in the cloister of Brandenburg Cathedral have faded: Plaster on which horses once "galloped" appears more or less bare. A hyperspectral camera sees images that remain hidden to ...

Device could detect driver drowsiness, make roads safer

20 hours ago

Drowsy driving injures and kills thousands of people in the United States each year. A device being developed by Vigo Technologies Inc., in collaboration with Wichita State University professor Jibo He and ...

New capability takes sensor fabrication to a new level

Jun 30, 2015

Operators must continually monitor conditions in power plants to assure they are operating safely and efficiently. Researchers on the Sensors and Controls Team at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory ...

Smart phones spot tired drivers

Jun 30, 2015

An electronic accelerometer of the kind found in most smart phones that let the device determine its orientation and respond to movement, could also be used to save lives on our roads, according to research ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.