Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mimicking fish and tailoring radar to warn of bridge peril

Floods cut down more bridges than fire, wind, earthquakes, deterioration, overloads and collisions combined, costing lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The speed and turbulence of an overflowing stream scours away the river bottom that provides the support for a bridge foundation, causing more than 60 percent of bridge failures in the U.S. in the last 30 years.

Currently, "there is no way to determine risk during these crucial events," said Xiong "Bill" Yu, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the Case School of Engineering.

To change that, Yu has begun designing what he calls smart infrastructure: underwater sensors that relay real-time information about how much river bottom has been stripped away and how stable, or unstable, the supports of a bridge remain. His work is being funded by a $450,001 CAREER grant received from the National Science Foundation in 2009.

"We don't fully understand how scouring takes place," Yu said. Water passing a bridge support forms vortices, which erode the river bottom. But how and at what rate scour occurs is complex. River bottoms usually consist of sand, clay, shale or sandstone or a mix, and each material acts a little differently in a strong current, he explained.

To characterize each vortex, Yu's lab is building flow sensors based on tiny, hair-like sensors that salmon have on the sides of their bodies. Researchers have found the fish determine flow direction by the direction the hairy cells move and speed by the time delay as turbulence passes different sensors. Yu's lab built sensors comprised of micro pillars made with piezoelectric fibers mounted on flexible copper rods. The fibers produce electric signals reflecting flow direction and speed. These have proven sensitive and accurate; the lab is now developing arrays for real-time flow and turbulence sensing.

To determine the amount of sediments being scoured away, his lab has built sensors that constantly measure the topography where the water meets the river bottom around the bridge supports. These sensors employ a technology called time domain reflectometry, in which radar is fired along waveguides installed at critical ground locations. The electromagnetic waves return at different speeds depending on the materials they strike and distance traveled. The waves are analyzed with an algorithm developed by Yu's lab to reveal minute changes in the depth and density of the substrate sediments.

The sensors proved durable, sensitive and accurate when tested on bridge supports 10-20 feet below the surface. The next step is to determine the maximum depth and flow conditions under which the sensors provide accurate and immediate information.

Yu's lab is also investigating sensors that can monitor the stability of the bridge structure itself.

The package of sensors will provide warnings not currently available and enable Yu's lab to develop computational scouring models and effective scouring countermeasures.

Kevin Mayhood | EurekAlert!
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>