Automated Scour Detection Arrays using Bio-Inspired Magnetostrictive Flow Sensors

Sponsor: US Department of Transportation

PI: R. Andrew Swartz

Scour is the most common cause of catastrophic bridge failures worldwide. Approximately over 60% of bridge failures reported in the United States from 1966 to 2005 are scour related. To ensure the continued safe operation of bridges, monitoring bridge scour is of paramount importance. Most monitoring regimes that are widely used are based on expensive underwater instrumentation. This research focuses on scour detection using automated remote flow detection arrays based on bio-inspired flow sensors. This study employs an array of bio inspired flow sensors that are inexpensive and robust versions of buried-rod scour sensor arrays, coupled with low-power wireless sensor network utilizing civil-engineering domain wireless sensing units to detect scour around bridge piers and abutments. Sensors within the network that report dynamic flow signals are considered to be waterborne or located above the sediment and sensors reporting static signals are characterized as buried or as being located in sediment. The a priori information of sensor depth will help to establish the sediment level in real time. An automated data interrogation system collects data, processes the raw sensor data using in-network data interrogation methods, then and communicates the results to the on-site base station. The relative directness of this data interrogation adds to the robustness of the system. The main purpose of the scour detection system is to provide remote scour information to bridge owners in a format that is easy to comprehend as an aid in decision making. In this project, only processed results, not raw data, are transmitted to the user. The system under study utilizes a cellular data link to relay simplified data to the bridge owner to aid in decision making.

A robust program of validation has been conducted to define the limits of the approach in the laboratory in the field. This reports details research activities on whisker development for sensitivity and robustness, signal processing, hardware development, installation methods, automation, and visualization of results.

A copy of this report can be found on the National Transportation Library website.

R. Andrew Swartz
R. Andrew Swartz