Bridges sing in the rain to reveal their health

July 2013 » Features » EXIT RAMP

A team of Brigham Young University (BYU) engineers has found that impact-echo testing can diagnose the health of a bridge's deck based on the acoustic footprint produced by a little bit of water. Specifically, the sound created when a droplet makes impact can reveal hidden dangers in the bridge.

BYU Professors Brian Mazzeo (left) and Spencer Guthrie test acoustic-based measurement techniques in their lab.

While impact-echo testing for bridges is nothing new, BYU Professors Brian Mazzeo, Ph.D., and Spencer Guthrie, Ph.D., are the first to use water droplets to produce acoustic responses. The idea is to detect delamination in a concrete bridge deck. The most common current method involves dragging a chain over a bridge and marking spots where dull, hollow sound is produced. However, this method can take hours to carry out for a single bridge and requires lane closures.

The new method is as simple as dropping droplets of water on the material and recording the sound. "The [acoustic] response gives you an indication of both the size and the depth of the flaw," Mazzeo said.

Current research is preliminary, but the researchers envision a day when bridge deck surveys would take only a few moments. "We would love to be able to drive over a bridge at 25 or 30 mph, spray it with water while we're driving, and be able to detect all the structural flaws on the bridge," Mazzeo said. "We think there is a huge opportunity, but we need to keep improving on the physics."

Source: Brigham Young University


Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events