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NH Bridge Research Implements Sensors

Friday, June 14, 2019

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Using sensors on bridges as a way to monitor and record data connected to infrastructure, such as structural performance, continues to be implemented: this time, on the Memorial Bridge in New Hampshire, with 40 sensors placed by the University of New Hampshire.

The endeavor, known as the Living Bridge Project, will provide data to researchers, bridge designers and the bridge owner, while also providing information to K-12 classes as well as the public, when relevant.

Memorial Bridge Sensors

Sensors on the vertical lift bridge, also known as the World War I Memorial Bridge, which connects Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, measure weight on the structure, along with tower stresses that occur when the bridge lifts, weather conditions and traffic. The current iteration of the bridge was opened in 2013, replacing a similar structure originally built between 1920 and 1923.

A floating platform was also moored to the pier, which serves as a home for a weather station and a bank of sensors.

“We call it a ‘living’ bridge because it can talk to us and provide valuable information about its health—the stress it deals with, the ease at which it moves, what’s happening around it and even under it in the Piscataqua River,” noted associate professor of civil engineering Erin Bell, who is also serving as principal investigator of the Living Bridge Project.

“This bridge is not just for getting us across the water, it can teach us so much more about the world around us.”

Bell also noted that there are three kinds of sensors being used: strain gauges, which measure how much the steel stretches; accelerometers, which measure the vibration of the bridge; and rotational sensors on the tower to measure the tower's movement during periods of high wind.

A tidal turbine installed on the platform is also testing the waters for the potentiality as a future renewable source of energy, an alternate option to solar panels. The data released to both students and educators will serve to better highlight the role of watersheds. According to the university, a phone app that will teach users about the bridge and surrounding neighborhoods is also currently in development.

The endeavor is a collaborative effort led by the university, with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, along with a number of other industry partners.

Other Bridge Sensors

In March, researchers based out of Michigan State University announced that they would be adding more data-tracking sensors to the Mackinac Bridge this summer—sensors that will read data that can contribute to maintenance of the Mighty Mac’s structural components.

In February, researchers out of Rice University (Houston) developed a ceramic sensor that may help to monitor the health of structures like buildings and bridges due to a change in conductivity under different kinds of strain.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Quality control; Research and development; Wind Monitoring

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