Averting Bridge Disasters: New Technology Could Save Hundreds of Lives
A faculty researcher and alumnus in the University of Maryland’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has developed a new and affordable early warning wireless technology system to measure the health of bridges that could help avert the kind of disaster that took place exactly four years ago, Aug. 1, 2007, along Minneapolis' I-35W, killing 13 and injured 145.
Since August 2010, Kalantari has had eight sensors on the Capital Beltway (I-495) Northwest Branch Bridge, a truss span like the one that collapsed in Minneapolis, though smaller. The bridge has proven "safe" in all his tests, so far.
Increase Manufacturing, Increase Safety
To understand the impact that Kalantari’s technology could have, consider that 72,000 U.S. bridges are listed by the U.S. Department of Transportation as "structurally deficient" and require extra surveillance (latest figures from 2007), while 79,000 others are functionally obsolete, exceeding their life-span and carrying loads greater than they were designed to handle (as of 2007).
Kalantari's sensors measure indicators of a bridge's structural health, such as strain, vibration, flexibility, and development of metal cracks. The sensors are small, wireless, rugged, and require practically no maintenance, he says.
"A wired network approach will cost at least 100 times more than a wireless alternative, and that's simply unaffordable given the strain on local, state, and federal budgets," Kalantari said.
Federal requirements call for visual inspections of highway bridges every two to five years; this technology meets an unanswered need by transmitting accurate, constant, detailed feedback concerning structural integrity.
Kalantari is working in an "emerging market with no widely accepted commercial solution now available." To commercialize his technology, he founded Resensys LLC, a start-up in the University of Maryland's Technology Advancement Program incubator program, a part of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute. He expects to increase production and expand the company’s activities in September.
August 1, 2011