Mike Stevens | Mar 19, 2009

A new project is underway at the University of Michigan that will see monitoring systems built into bridges, allowing a greater level of control over the bridge’s structural integrity.

At present, bridge monitoring is largely done visually by professional maintenance crews, but a visual check will accomplish only so much and can’t guarantee a bridge’s status as safe for vehicles. The effects of corrosion and vibration can often go unseen until it is too late.

The ‘smart bridge’ project, which will last five years and carries a price tag of US$19 million (AU$28m), includes developing electrically-conductive concrete, where changes in the conductivity of the bridge’s concrete sections would indicate a weakness.

Other features include wireless nodes to monitor vibration, as well as a nano-tube ‘sensing skin’ coating areas of the bridge and designed to detect cracks and corrosion.

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