US: A team of researchers led by the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the US developed a low-cost, automated and efficient method for checking critical bridge components. Called the Multi-modal Remote Sensing System (MRSS), the project is funded with a two-year USD 1.3 million grant from the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
The MRSS will use innovative continuous-wave imaging radar, high-resolution optical cameras for digital image correlation, GPS and position sensors and a laser ranger for quick, on-the-spot inspection as well as fiber optic sensors for long-term, continuous monitoring.
In addition to detecting surface cracks in concrete piers and rusting in steel girders, the system will allow inspectors to monitor structural behaviour and detect surface changes such as bulging, cracking or stress/strain.
America’s transportation infrastructure is in bad shape. Many of the nation’s roads, highways and bridges are in need of maintenance, repair or overhaul. In Massachusetts alone, the DOT has identified a total of 210 bridges on the national highway system as “structurally deficient.” The system aims to help inspect and monitor the structural health and integrity of highway bridges.
Civil engineering Prof. Tzu-Yang Yu is the project’s principal investigator (PI). “Managing the country’s growing number of deteriorated highway bridges and being able to accurately inspect them in a timely and cost-effective manner is a major challenge in the United States today,” said Yu. “Traditional non-destructive testing/inspection methods cannot provide an accurate and rapid evaluation on a routine basis to prevent deteriorated bridges from sudden collapse.”
He added existing bridge inspection techniques, which include visual inspection, ultrasound and mechanical sounding, are typically time-consuming, labor-intensive and costly. “Safety concerns for the workers and motorists, the resulting traffic jams and the subjective nature of visual inspections are additional disadvantages with current methods.”
According to Yu, “MRSS represents the next-generation of portable bridge-inspection technology. The same remote-sensing capabilities can be used in other applications such as structural inspection and monitoring of high-rise buildings.”