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Industry Updates

New Technology Can Detect the Bridge Cracks That Inspectors May Miss


The United States has yet to implement a solution to fix the crumbling infrastructure, but we could use a technology to warn us when structures are nearing the end of their useful life. Civil and mechanical engineers from Iowa State University (ISU), The University of Kansas, The University of Arizona and University of South Carolina have developed one.

According to ISU, the engineers have created a sensory skin that can automatically detect, localize and quantify fatigue cracks in bridges, which are nearly impossible for inspectors to spot during routine visual inspections. The product consists of soft sensors that detect the cracks locally over large surfaces.

“Fatigue cracks occur in steel components, and an important number of bridges in the U.S. are vulnerable to these cracks that can lead to sudden structure failures,” commented Simon Laflamme, the lead principal investigator and an ISU Waldo W. Wegner professor in civil engineering.

ISU notes that the project, Robust Wireless Skin-Sensor Networks for Long-Term Fatigue Crack-Monitoring of Bridges (Phase I), will focus on continuing to develop and refine the sensor. “We will apply our knowledge in scalable sensing to provide infrastructure operators with an autonomous monitoring technology that will provide meaningful quantities enabling condition-based maintenance decisions,” Laflamme added.