COLLEGE PARK, Md. - On August 1, 2007, without warning, the roadway suddenly disappeared beneath drivers on Minneapolis' I-35W Bridge. The collapse sent more than 100 cars into the Mississippi River, killing 13 and injuring 145.
In the five years since, advances in wireless sensor technology are making warning systems to prevent such tragedies affordable and practical, say engineers at the University of Maryland. A new generation of these devices is needed to adequately monitor the nearly 150,000 U.S. highway bridges - about one in four - listed by the federal government as either "structurally deficient" or "obsolete," the researchers add.
"We no longer need to roll the dice when it comes to the structural integrity of the nation's highway bridges," says University of Maryland research engineer Mehdi Kalantari. "Technical advances in wireless sensors make real-time monitoring both affordable and practical."
Kalantari leads one of two engineering teams at Maryland addressing the need. Working at the university's Mtech incubator, Kalantari has taken an entrepreneurial route, developing a system of tiny, long-lasting, energy-efficient, low-maintenance wireless sensors and software that analyzes real-time data collected. His startup, Rensensys, has manufactured systems for use in the private sector and for testing by Maryland State Highway officials.
Another University of Maryland engineering team - supported by federal and state funding and working with researchers from North Carolina State University and URS Corp. - is working on a total "smart bridge" package with multiple technology innovations. Their Integrated Structural Health Monitoring system is not yet available commercially. But, key elements of this system are being tested by Maryland State Highway officials, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
"Wireless technology definitely makes bridge structural he
|Contact: Neil Tickner|
University of Maryland