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Bridge safety at the heart of AUS professor’s research collaboration
A faculty member from American University of Sharjah (AUS) is part of a collaborative research project currently being conducted at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in the United States. The research, which aims to establish bridge structural health and intelligent traffic monitoring systems, is part of a PhD thesis by Virginia Tech’s civil and environmental engineering student, Amin Moghadam.
Entitled “Integration of Traffic and Structural Health Monitoring Systems using Extended Nothing-On-Road Bridge-Weigh-In-Motion Systems,” the work is being supervised by Dr. Rodrigo Sarlo, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech, and Dr. Mohammad AlHamaydeh, Professor in Civil Engineering at AUS.
Explaining the main idea behind the research project, Dr. AlHamaydeh said: “Since overloaded trucks adversely affect the structural integrity, overall safety and pavement conditions of bridges, the new system is designed to effectively address this concern. The developed system will evaluate the structural integrity of bridges in real-time to facilitate planning and management of bridge maintenance deployment. Currently, the common practice is to perform maintenance inspections on important bridges annually. So, imagine if maintenance inspection is carried out today and substantial cracking develops on the bridge the very next. We would not be aware of the crack until the next scheduled inspection a year later. This system would detect any structural problems that develop in real-time and report them immediately.”
Dr. AlHamaydeh, who has been co-supervising Moghadam’s work on areas of Non-Linear Finite Element Analysis and Structural Health Monitoring, added: “As the vehicle moves along the bridge, this system, which uses instrumented bridges as a platform, also detects typical aspects of heavy passing vehicles such as vehicle position and speed, vehicle gross weight, number of axles and axle spacings, as well as individual axle weights. So, while this information is paramount for maintaining the structural integrity of the bridge, it also provides information on violating trucks that are not allowed on the bridge. Trucking companies are aware of the weight limit of bridges, but compliance is not always guaranteed”.
Integrating the two sensor networks for traffic and structural integrity monitoring significantly reduces cost and results in a more holistic design to instrumentation of bridges. The sensors in this system, are not installed on the road surface, which eliminates many issues found in other traditional systems such as lane closures and traffic disruption. It also drastically improves the durability of the system as the sensors are not exposed to daily tire impacts and harsh weather conditions.
Speaking about his choice of research, Moghadam said: “The civil engineering community is going toward smart cities and smart structures, where transportation systems, building management, structural integrity, communication, citizen engagement and building energy can be managed in a more efficient way. This makes me even more excited about staying in the field to work as a researcher.”
Currently, the system is being deployed on two long-span concrete-box-girder bridges in Virginia: Varina-Enon and Smart Road bridges, with the aim of demonstrating the systems’ efficacy on long-span concrete-box-girder bridges. The study will also address some of the current challenges associated with long-span bridges such as identification of multiple trucks passing on the bridge simultaneously.
Moghadam said: “Once this research project is completed, I am hoping to commercialize this extended, low-cost system to be used extensively for both structural health monitoring and traffic monitoring on all bridges with different structures and geometries.”
To learn more about civil engineering at AUS, visit: https://www.aus.edu/cen/department-of-civil-engineering.