Bridge stability monitoring a reality just weeks after Minneapolis disaster

Wednesday, 15 August, 2007

An American professor has developed a system for remote monitoring of bridges using a dense network of wireless sensors, just weeks after the disastrous Minneapolis bridge collapse in early August.

Professor Kerop Janoyan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at New York's Clarkson University, has been working with a nearly $500,000 research grant from the state government to monitor bridges across the county and state.

The work is part of an effort to increase the way departments of transportation in New York State keep track of its bridge inventory. It had been ongoing long before the collapse on 2 August of a major bridge in Minneapolis, which claimed nine lives with four still missing.

Janoyan has developed and deployed a wireless sensor network to measure bridge vibration and strain, utilising low-cost microprocessors and transceivers. The data is sent to a base station where it can be retrieved and monitored from anywhere.

Janoyan says traditional wired instrumentation of a bridge is often not feasible due to time and cost constraints.

Now, the bridge can be instrumented using a low-cost and automatic system for structural health monitoring and condition assessment.

A bridge in New York State was recently instrumented with 40 channels of sensors and data was retrieved in real time at a base station.

This large-scale deployment is one of the largest of its kind currently in the US and demonstrates the use of wireless sensor networks for structural health monitoring as a feasible low-cost, universal approach.

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