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George Lee

Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering
University at Buffalo (716) 645-3397 or (716) 645-2039



MCEER Collaborates with IEM to Develop New Device for Structural Health Monitoring of Bridges

Dr. Zach Liang and Prof. George Lee describe the concept behind a new type of device that is being developed to monitor the structural strength and deterioration of bridges. Shown from left are Xiaolong He, Zach Liang, Norm Duennebacke, Kevin Marracino and George Lee.

MCEER, University at Buffalo (UB), is collaborating with the Institute of Engineering Mechanics (IEM) in Harbin, China to develop a structural health monitoring device for use by highway bridge inspectors who play a vital role in the safety of our infrastructure. The new device will be able to accurately measure the curvature of a bridge as it deflects under normal traffic. The measured responses can then be correlated to the strength parameters of a bridge, resulting in a condition assessment that is not possible with a purely visual inspection.

Plans are to further test and develop the system with collaboration of NYSDOT. Use of this technology compared to conventional visual methods could result in better and more efficient inspections for certain types of bridges. The advantage of this system is its very high sensitivity and good accuracy for non-destructive evaluation of the physical condition of a bridge. It may be developed either as a portable unit or be permanently installed on a bridge for long-term monitoring.

This type of device is needed to help bridge engineers evaluate the large number of structures that are rated structurally deficient throughout the country, especially for inspecting and rating structural elements such as prestressing strands in concrete beams that are hidden from view because they are encased in concrete. The device can be used to identify problems while helping agencies and state departments of transportation avoid expending funds on more time-consuming and labor-intensive testing.

Representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Region 5 (Buffalo office) Norm Duennebacke, Regional Structures Engineer, and Kevin Marracino, Regional Bridge Management Engineer, met with UB/MCEER researchers George C. Lee, Samuel P. Capen Professor of Engineering, Zach Liang, Research Associate Professor, Jerome O’Connor, Manager of the Bridge Engineering Program, and graduate students Sumit Gogna and Xianlong He, on October 28, 2011 to discuss progress on the project. The research team is working to refine software associated with the device and improve its portability to make it more practical for field applications. Dr. Liang demonstrated some of the capabilities of the sensor at a bridge near UB’s North Campus that carries a state route over Ellicott Creek.

This effort is part of an international cooperative research project between MCEER, University at Buffalo and the Institute of Engineering Mechanics in Harbin, China.