UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Sensor Nets: Structural Health Monitoring

Sensors monitor structural integrity of world's first composite bridge built for heavy traffic.

In October 2002, a sensor array (that includes accelerometers, linear potentiometers and strain gauges) on the Kings Stormwater Channel Bridge near the Salton Sea was connected to the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) at UCSD through collaboration between the Department of Structural Engineering and the HPWREN project led by Dr. Hans-Werner Braun and Dr. Frank Vernon. Information on the response of the bridge to seismic events and vehicle traffic loads can now be simultaneously accessed by staff at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), as well as at UCSD.

“The wireless link allows engineers and researchers to access the bridge instrumentation system on a real-time basis, and process the data using a non-destructive damage evaluation software package developed jointly by Caltrans and Texas A&M University,” explains Professor Vistasp Karbhari, Chair of the Department of Structural Engineering. “One area of particular interest that Caltrans and UCSD are jointly investigating is the durability of these advanced composite materials given the environmental conditions and high stresses due to the truck traffic.”

Once fully operational, the damage evaluation software coupled with the data acquisition/ transmission system will allow engineers to evaluate the structural safety of the bridge on a more frequent basis. More importantly, the health monitoring system under development is generic, thus allowing application to other structures with minimal system modifications.