New tech to help protect bridges, other infrastructure from scour

Nov 15, 2010
The ISEP will help authorities prepare for, or minimize the impact of, events such as the failure of the levees in the wake of Katrina. Credit: Cary Caruso, North Carolina State University

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a sensor that allows engineers to assess the scour potential of soils at various depths and on-site for the first time – a technology that will help evaluate the safety of civil infrastructure before and after storm events. Scour, or erosion of soil around structures due to water flow, is responsible for a wide range of critical infrastructure failures – from unstable bridges to the levees that gave way in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"The 'in situ scour evaluation probe' (ISEP) is the first technology that allows technicians in the field to measure the scour potential of soils without the need for excavation," says Dr. Mo Gabr, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the new device. "Previous technologies required engineers to take samples and process them in a lab."

Understanding scour potential is important because it can help authorities prepare for, or minimize the impact of, events such as the failure of the levees in the wake of Katrina. Scour has also been linked to approximately 60 percent of the bridge failures in the United States, as documented by the Federal Highway Administration.

"The ISEP's ability to measure scour potential at different depths helps us predict how the soil will behave in the future as a support media, as various layers of soil are eroded or scoured," Gabr says.

The ISEP will also allow end-users such as federal and state agencies and private consultants to perform scour assessment more frequently, since they will not have to take physical samples back to a lab for analysis. More testing data means researchers will have a larger data set to work with, which should help them to more accurately predict scouring rates and behavior.

The new probe uses a water jet to burrow a hole into the soil. Researchers can track the rate at which the water displaces the to determine the scour rate. Researchers can also manipulate the velocity and flow rate of the water to simulate various natural events – from normal stream flow to hurricane-induced surges.

The researchers plan to take the ISEP to North Carolina's Outer Banks later this month to help with research efforts related to dune erosion.

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

More information: The paper, "In Situ measurement of the scour potential of non-cohesive sediments (ISEP)," was presented Nov. 8 at the 5th International Conference on Scour and Erosion in San Francisco, Calif.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rensselaer engineers to inspect levees

Oct 10, 2005

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientists are going to New Orleans as part of an expert team investigating levee failures caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Senate hearing focuses on repairing levees in New Orleans

Nov 18, 2005

It is clear that there were multiple causes for the levee failures in New Orleans, but researchers need to gather more data to better understand what they were and how to rebuild properly after the devastation caused by Hurricane ...

How much nitrogen is too much for corn?

Apr 23, 2007

North Carolina State researchers recently discovered a test that quickly predicts nitrogen levels in the humid soil conditions of the southeastern United States. These scientists report that the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test ...

Engineers Find New Way to Close Levees

Aug 23, 2006

A team of University of South Carolina civil engineers who have studied the failure of the 17th Street canal levee in New Orleans say they have found a cost-effective and efficient way to halt flooding caused by breached ...

Where is your soil water? Crop yield has the answer

Jul 01, 2008

Crop yield is highly dependent on soil plant-available water, the portion of soil water that can be taken up by plant roots. Quantitative determination of the maximum amount of plant-available water in soil using traditional ...

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

Apr 18, 2014

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...