Researchers at the Drexel University’s College of Engineering have developed a solar-powered wireless sensor system to monitor bridge deformation and alert authorities of performance deterioration.
Bridges over 50 years old need regular inspection. Currently, visual inspections are common, but a system where the inspection is done regularly is rare.
Researchers at the Drexel University’s College of Engineering have developed a solar-powered, wireless sensor system to monitor bridge deformation continuously and notify authorities of significant performance deterioration. Preventing failures, prioritizing maintenance and replacement efficiently, and ensuring sustainable infrastructure preservation and improvement is crucial.
The wireless displacement sensor comprises a solar cell, a displacement potentiometer, and a monitoring transceiver. Mounted on the bridge, it continuously measures deformation during traffic and transmits data to a remote monitoring station. The displacement potentiometer, a small and lightweight device, mounts on the bridge’s girder. It measures girder movement during vehicle passage, detecting early signs of structural issues. Using solar cell and backup battery power, multiple potentiometers can be wirelessly mounted on the bridge. The system supports various sensors for monitoring bridge movements like acceleration, tilt, and displacement. Integrating multiple sensor types offers a comprehensive assessment of bridge health.
The system’s main advantage is eliminating costly, delicate cables that span hundreds or even thousands of feet, reducing installation efforts and overall expenses. Additionally, the wireless platform enables simultaneous readings from various sensor types, including displacements, accelerometers, tiltmeters, and strain gauges. The team crafted a weather-resistant power supply featuring a 21.8x35cm, 10W solar cell and a robust 14.8V lithium-ion battery. They tested it in harsh winter conditions to ensure enduring performance. The team aims to offer an affordable, durable sensor array that requires minimal maintenance, facilitating continuous monitoring of numerous bridges beyond deteriorated ones. This extensive data collection will establish baseline structural behavior and trigger alerts upon unexpected changes.
As per the researchers, the goal is maintenance-free longevity for the sensors. Continuous monitoring ensures the proper functioning of these structures, capturing data on overloads and structural deformation caused by heavy loads. It also monitors environmental effects like wind and temperature changes within expected limits. Though deployment-ready, the team plans lab testing and refinement by incorporating more sensor types and determining the power supply’s complete lifespan.
Reference : Yao Wang et al, Power Self-Sustained Wireless Bridge Deformation Monitoring System Based on Solar Photovoltaic, IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Industrial Electronics (2022). DOI: 10.1109/JESTIE.2022.3204487