$2.67M for Bridge Sensing Research

A joint research team led by two structural engineering professors – Chung C. Fu and Yunfeng Zhang in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Clark School – has recently been awarded a research project with a total budget worth $2.67 million.

The project aims to develop a smart bridge condition monitoring system that features a number of technology innovations, including remote-sensing capability, piezo paint acoustic emission sensors, wind- and solar-based energy harvesting devices to a power sensor network, high-speed wireless sensing ability and advanced data analysis methods for remaining life estimation of aging bridges.

With many bridges plagued with fatigue cracking problems, the current system will be focused on fatigue condition assessment of highway steel bridges with a potential for monitoring other types of structural damages, such as corrosion. The proposed system will integrate recent advancements in civil, aerospace, and electrical engineering disciplines to develop a transformational system that will have high rewards in reducing the operating and maintenance costs by providing an accurate assessment of damage and degradation at an early stage.

The project team members also include North Carolina State University and URS Corporation. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, under the Commercial Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Technologies Program, provides $1.15 million under a cooperative agreement, and the rest comes from matching supports from the Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland State Highway Administration, North Carolina Department of Transportation, as well as cost sharing by UMD and NCSU.

After validation and characterization tests performed at the UMD’s Structures Lab, the bridge monitoring system will be implemented on bridges at Maryland and North Carolina for field demonstration. If successful, this system will be deployed to more bridges in other states. One of the primary goals for the RITA funded project is to commercialize the developed sensor technology. The project team is also looking at possible technology transfer opportunities to commercialize the developed technology by partnering with UMD’s business incubator programs. Through successful advancement and commercialization in the state-of-the-art technology of remote infrastructure sensing, the bridge monitoring system is promising to reduce life cycle costs while significantly maintaining the sustainability of the highway infrastructures in the US.

Published August 3, 2011