10 years after deadly bridge collapse, sensors could prevent future disasters

Ten years after the catastrophic collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge, monitoring of 18,000 other “fracture-critical” bridges in U.S. is more important than ever says University of Maryland Engineer
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> “The catastrophic collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge [on August 1, 2007] was a stark example of the extreme outcome of failure in fracture-critical bridges, which are defined as steel bridges having one or more steel members in tension whose failure would lead to partial or complete collapse of the bridge. Such an extreme failure could happen again, and less dramatic failures happen everyday, compromising public safety and leading to partial or complete shutdown of bridges,” says Mehdi Kalantari Khandani, Ph.D., Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Maryland
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> “Early detection of structural  problems in these bridges is imperative to ensure public safety. And according to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory Database there are more than 18,000 fracture-critical bridges in the U.S.,” says Kalantari. Note – copies can be provided of Kalantari’s 2016 article on this topic: “Critical Mass”, in Bridge Design and Engineering.
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> Dr. Kalantari says Resensys LLC,  has developed wireless structural monitoring systems, which can cost effectively and reliably monitor the health of fracture-critical and other bridges.

“Resensys’s award winning ultra-low-power wireless sensor network technology, known as SenSpot, provides continuous and long-term monitoring of dynamic (e.g., effect of traffic “loading”) and static loading on critical structural members, and gives alerts when abnormal behavior
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According to Kalantari, Resensys SenSpots currently are the world’s most energy efficient wireless monitoring sensors and a SenSpot sensor provides a minimum of 10 years of monitoring using a small ½-AA battery.
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> Kalantari says Resensys  structural monitoring systems are already employed on bridges in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, Georgia, and Florida; as well as on bridges in Canada, Iceland, Italy, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. “In numerous cases, our systems have successfully detected structural issues before problems occurred,” he says.
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According to the Save Our Bridges website the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge prior to its collapse had been designated both structurally deficient and fracture critical.

The organization says there are 7,980 other bridges in the U.S. that also have received both of these designations.

“New assessment technologies that exist today are central to overcoming the limiting effects of visual inspection for both bridge management and funding allocation, and offer a variety of benefits to transportation departments and the public,” — Save Our Bridges.

The University of Maryland and Dr. Kalantari are not involved with Save Our Bridges.
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