Wireless sensors monitor bridge safety

Mackinac Bridge
Researchers from Michigan State University and Washington University in St. Louis have teamed to test sensors on Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge. (Pixabay)

Researchers from Michigan State University and Washington University in St. Louis have teamed to test sensors on Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge that are powered by traffic vibrations and could detect bridge failures before they happen. This will make the Mackinac Bridge the first fully instrumented bridge in the country using advanced wireless and self-powered monitoring technology.

The first 20 prototype sensors were installed on the Mackinac Bridge in 2016. After a successful trial period, researchers installed 2,000 of the tiny sensors. This will allow them to explore the logistics of an even larger deployment and provide useful monitoring data to the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

“Not only can this technology be used to issue early warnings prior to a catastrophic structural failure, it can also be used to quickly diagnose the effects of rare, high-impact events like earthquakes and hurricanes on a  large infrastructure like a bridge,” said Shantanu Chakrabartty, the Clifford Murphy Professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, in a statement.

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Chakrabartty worked with Nizar Lajnef, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MSU to develop the sensors, which are powered by the kinetic energy of the bridge’s movements and wirelessly transmit structural data.

The researchers believe the successful large-scale deployment of these sensors could transform the economics of bridge preservation and management and improve the serviceability and safety of bridges.

RELATED: Help for Troubled Bridges

 

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