Research: Bridge Sensors Read for Storm Damage
In order to assess the impacts of storm surges on bridges, a team based out of the University of Florida, with help from a grant from the National Science Foundation, is developing a network of sensors that monitor bridges during such events, reporting that data in real time.
According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 54,000 bridges in the U.S., out of 612,677 total, are considered structurally deficient.
Bridge Sensor Research
Jennifer Bridge, professor of civil engineering at the University of Florida, is working with students on the project. When originally setting up the sensors, the team focused on placing them on bridges that are crucial for evacuation and rescue. There is also an additional focus on getting a read on bridges similar to those that have had storm-surge-related damage.
“The custom-designed system is the result of extensive research, including adaptive sampling methods to capture wave impacts without overwhelming the system's memory or power,” the National Science Foundation notes.
“For now, the team is focused on concrete bridges in Florida's low-lying coastal areas, like the type of bridges that failed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”
In an interview, Bridge noted that the hub currently in use, equipped with a 32-gigabyte SD card that can hold a few weeks’ worth of data in case of communication loss, is capable of withstanding high winds and rain by being mounted to the bridge railing. Some modifications were also made to allow for sensor connections and solar power component linkage. Any holes made in the hub were done so with a marine-rated sealant.
Lateral forces are read by determining the pressure difference between the two sides of a bridge, followed by taking measurements of how the structure responds. For this part of the research, the team used accelerometers and tiltmeters, which read for tilt, and extensometers or displacement transducers in order to get a read on bridge deck unseating/uplift.
Future plans include the rapid deployment of the sensor system, which will be able to capture information on waves, surge, wind and scour, on bridges that stand in the way of storm surges.