The new five-year project, with a price tag of $19 million, will develop a sophisticated infrastructure monitoring system to be installed on several test bridges. The innovative systems include electrically-conductive concrete (changes in conductivity along the span would signal a weakness), wireless nodes to monitor unusual vibrations, and a nanotube-based "sensing skin" to detect cracks and corrosion. Sensor-laden vehicles would also travel the bridge to measure the span's reaction to heavy loads.
The real-time monitoring is beneficial, but there are more wide-scale plans for the technology. Jerome Lynch, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says that if the program were to be rolled-out nationwide, researchers would be able to make statistical comparisons between bridges. This type of data would help engineers develop safer spans to prevent future disasters.
[Source: University of Michigan, image by UMTRI)