Myra Lydon at Queen’s University Belfast has developed an initial prototype sensor in partnership with Somni Solutions and testing has now completed.
Dr Lydon hopes it will be installed on a Northern Ireland bridge this summer before more research and then a wider roll out.
“In 2009, we witnessed catastrophic bridge failure in Malahide, Co Dublin where scour failure occurred suddenly,” she said. “With scour, there is often no prior visible sign of distress to structure. In Malahide, the bridge was inspected just weeks prior to its collapse and had passed inspection but then failed seconds after a full passenger train crossed. Thankfully it narrowly avoided the catastrophe.
“It is vital that we protect our bridges and are able to detect scour before incidents like this take place. The sensor that we have developed detects changes in the riverbed prior to the damage occurring on the bridge. This can provide an early warning, which undoubtedly is safer and helps to prevent widespread bridge failures when we are faced with extreme climate events, such as flooding.”
The project has been funded by UK Research & Innovation’s Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). Invest NI has provided additional funding for market exploration.
Dr Lydon is working with the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure’s highway structures unit to identify a suitable bridge test site. The sensor will be installed along with other structural health monitoring equipment to ensure the safety of aging bridges.