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Civil Engineering Team Expands Research on Bridges

04 September 2007

A civil engineering team's research at K-State on rural bridges remains unaffected by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

An ongoing, two-year research project titled ""Intelligent Structural Health Monitoring of Rural Bridges,"" proposes a plan to develop a system to monitor and sustain a bridge's capacity. The system uses a wireless sensory network system and experiments with a cost-effective, structural fibre reinforced polymer to reinforce bridge strength. The team working on the research is composed of Hayder Rasheed, Robert Peterman, Asadollah Esmaeily, Hani Melhelm and Brandon Decker.

This particular project is one of the few, if not the only, current research project that is composed of the special system that includes evaluating and applying solutions to enhance bridge safety, Esmaeily, assistant Professor of Structural Engineering, said.

Esmaeily said team members thought it was necessary to find a way to develop a system using existing resources that was effective in identifying and solving internal discrepancies in bridges. With a budget of about $70,000 allocated by the University Transportation Department, the researchers were able to develop an experiment to simulate durability.

Esmaeily said many factors can affect the internal dynamic properties of a bridge, making it important to internally examine bridges annually for problems that might have developed from everyday use. ""Bridges are a crucial component to the transportation system,"" Esmaeily said. ""If something were wrong with a bridge, people would not notice until something bad happened.""

According to a report prepared by Decker and Rasheed, associate professor of civil engineering, the team constructed three identical T-Beams to test the FRP repair and strengthening technique. They then settled on wireless technology provided by Micro strain, that would be used to gage strain on the framework. Similar research already has been conducted on buildings and other structures, Esmaeily said, but bridges are more complex, making the research much more intensive and time-consuming.

The team has contributed more than 200 hours to the project. This has not deterred the team in their efforts to increase the efficiency of bridges as they have done all of their research without receiving direct payment for the time they invested, said Peterman, associate professor of civil engineering.

The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge on Aug. 2 in Minneapolis raised questions and concerns about the safety of bridges everywhere, particularly Kansas where there are six bridges that have a similar deck-truss design as did the Interstate 35W bridge. The aftermath of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse did not affect the team's research, but interviews with local TV stations and newspapers did bring their work into the public's eye.





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