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Aug. 28, 2019

Monitoring bridge safety with wireless sensors

Monitoring bridge safety with wireless sensors

Tens of thousands of bridges across the country are deteriorating, creating potentially dangerous conditions.

Researchers from Michigan State University and Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to help solve this problem. They are testing innovative sensors on Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge that are powered by traffic vibrations and could detect bridge failures before they happen. This will make the Mackinac Bridge the first fully instrumented bridge in the country using advanced wireless and self-powered monitoring technology.

The first 20 prototype sensors were installed on the Mackinac Bridge in 2016. After the sensors proved their durability and performed as intended, researchers started the next phase of testing with the installation of up to 2,000 of the tiny devices. This will allow them to explore the logistics of an even larger deployment and provide useful monitoring data to the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

The successful large-scale deployment of this low-cost sensing technology could dramatically transform the economics of bridge preservation and management and improve the serviceability and safety of bridges.

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