Engineer harnesses untapped power of sensors to monitor structures

February 12, 2014 by Shelley Drozd
Shamim Pakzad. Credit: David W. Coulter

Shamim Pakzad, an assistant professor of structural engineering in the department of civil and environmental engineering, has received a five-year CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research on the development of mobile sensor technology for structural condition assessment.

Pakzad's research aims to create an entire class of new methods for understanding how structural systems behave using to collect data. His CAREER project will focus on analytical models and experimental platforms for validation and verification that improve the safety and reliability of highway bridges.

Driving the data collection is a network built on the ubiquitous mobile devices of daily life. The same sensors that orient smartphones, tablets, GPS and their like connect a wide, dense measurement grid ideally suited for data mining. This revolution in electronic sensing technology has created unprecedented opportunities for gauging structural response and environmental conditions at rates, volumes and locations not possible before.

"Structural sensing used to be a very expensive and impractical thing to do. Now, not only do we have devices that we can build and design for this purpose, we have this untapped wealth of data that could be collected from devices we already have to add to our knowledge," says Pakzad.

An expert in wireless sensing and structural health monitoring, Pakzad believes that the ability to identify the condition of structural systems in real time has far-reaching implications for society.  

"Our communities need structures and systems that are more resilient to hazards, disruptive events, and the deterioration that occurs as a result of wear and tear," he says. "The goal of my research through this CAREER project is to use the novel capabilities of mobile sensors to address those needs."

Explore further: NPL helps Senceive to offer improved monitoring of structural assets across the UK

Related Stories

Building ultra-low power wireless networks

August 29, 2012

(—Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have received funding from the National Science Foundation to create distortion-tolerant communications for wireless networks that use very little power. ...

Low-energy GPS sensing looms large

December 11, 2012

Location sensing has become ubiquitous—it's present every time you turn on your smartphone or engage your car's navigation system. It's also become critical to a variety of outdoors and remote research applications, such ...

'Talking' to structures to boost public safety

August 13, 2013

University of Adelaide researchers are developing low-cost technology which can 'talk' to structures like bridges and aeroplanes to monitor their structural health and assess them for damage.

Recommended for you

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...

Glider pilots aim for the stratosphere

November 20, 2015

Talk about serendipity. Einar Enevoldson was strolling past a scientist's office in 1991 when he noticed a freshly printed image tacked to the wall. He was thunderstruck; it showed faint particles in the sky that proved something ...


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.