Bridge testing: digital wireless technology

Princeton, NJ—Ensuring the integrity and performance of the country’s bridges and infrastructure has become critical after the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, MN in August.


Princeton, NJ —Ensuring the integrity and performance of the country’s bridges and infrastructure has become critical after the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, MN in August. Physical Acoustics Corporation (PAC), a member of Mistras Group Inc. , specializes in nondestructive testing and inspection and has developed digital wireless sensor technology that assists bridge operators in preventing bridge failures. Bridges are typically evaluated and inspected visually, but more advanced inspection technologies are required to provide input to authorities and assist in making informed and effective decisions for planning for maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, or replacement.

On-line monitoring and sensor fusion can cover failure mechanisms and unpredictable deterioration. PAC applies sound technology called acoustic emission (AE) for bridge monitoring and other sensors, including vibration accelerometers, strain gages, and corrosion gages, used by bridge engineers to assess the possible mechanism of failures and predict bridge life. AE testing is a technique used to detect warning signals forecasting defect formation and failures in structural materials. Cracks can be heard from remote distances by using AE sensors similar to using geophones for earthquake detection.

Since the early 1990s bridge monitoring using AE has been investigated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that continues to fund development, testing, and demonstrations on the use of AE for bridge inspection and monitoring. PAC has been awarded several FHWA contracts since the late 1980s and has monitored over 20 bridges. “It is only because of state DOTs and government funding that has prevented wide scale deployment of on-line monitoring using sensor fusion and wireless technologies on bridges,” states Dr. Sotirios J. Vahaviolos, founder and chairman/CEO of PAC and Mistras Group. “We have the technology for bridge health monitoring now and are ready to team up with bridge operators in order to prevent catastrophic failures from naturally occurring structural flaws that are the result of an aging infrastructure,” concludes Dr. Vahaviolos.

For related news, see this Control Engineering article:
Structural testing: Sensors, computer modeling, wireless technologies

And this "Ask Charlie" blog posting...

" Did oscillations cause the I-35 bridge collapse? "

—Edited by Lisa Sutor , Control Engineering Daily News

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