Research Update
KTVU Special Report: New High-Tech Sensors May Predict Bridge Fatigue

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KTVU recently broadcast a "SPECIAL REPORT: New High-Tech Sensors May Predict Bridge Fatigue," which provides an update to ongoing research at U-M to ensure the safety of America's bridges and infrastructure. The technology is expected to provide a warning when portions of a bridge begin to experience dangerous levels of stress.

As stated in the news report, "the immediate goal is to deploy cheap, wireless sensors on every major U.S. bridge. These sensors can make complex measurements without hundreds of yards of cable. Some are even powered by vibration."

"It's a very low-cost prototype costing about a $100 per sensing node. You can see it has an antenna for its wireless sensing capabilities," said Jerry Lynch, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of EECS.

Lynch is PI for this major project funded by the government, and partners with several faculty in EECS for the wireless sensing, communication, energy harvesting, sensor, and antenna technology. These EECS faculty include Mike Flynn, Mingyan Liu, Amir Mortazawi, Khalil Najafi, Atul Prakash, and Dennis Sylvester. [Read additional information about each faculty member's contribution to the project]

Prakash states, "What we are trying to do is to create the technology to monitor the health of America's bridges, just as in a home, one may use sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, or its security. The technical challenges are much larger in modeling, collection, storage, and analysis of bridge sensor data since the data has to be correlated with bridge models, traffic, weather, and historical data over long periods of time."

The technology is expected to be ready for commercialization in about five years, and is already being tested on the Carquinez Bridge in California.

An Interdisciplinary Approach that Serves an Interconnected World

This $19-million project is an exciting and instructive example of how EECS is making significant impact on large-scale technical and societal challenges through interdisciplinary research and development. The smart bridge project brings together 14 researchers from within the College of Engineering and the U-M Transportation Research Institute. In addition, engineers at five private firms in New York, California, and Michigan are key team members.

The project is funded by nearly $9 million from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Technology Innovation Program (TIP). The remaining funding comes from cost-sharing among the entities involved and the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT has offered unfettered access to state bridges to serve as high-visibility test-beds showcasing the project technology.

Original U-M Press Release (1/14/09)

Posted: February 2010 by
Catharine June
EECS/ECE Communications Coordinator or 734-936-2965

Related Topics:   Antennas   Communications   Electromagnetics   Energy Scavenging   Flynn, Michael   Infrastructure   Liu, Mingyan   Mortazawi, Amir   Najafi, Khalil   Sensors   Sylvester, Dennis   Wireless Communications