Using sensors to spot infrastructure damage

by | August 16, 2018

Health Monitoring System

ABOVE: Left to right, Hongbo Dai, Hao Liu, Erik Thostenson and Will Johnson check out infrastructure sensors at UD’s Center for Composite Materials. | Photo by Evan Krape

UD team aims to commercialize structural health monitoring systemss

An entrepreneurial team based at the University of Delaware is working to commercialize a system that could make infrastructure such as bridges and pipelines safer. The team, called Smartenius, consists of Hao Liu (Entrepreneurial Lead), Hongbo Dai (Team Member), Erik Thostenson (Faculty Advisor) and William Johnson (Business Mentor).

Almost 40 percent of America’s bridges are 50 years or older, and 188 million daily trips happen on structurally deficient bridges, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Sometimes emergency bridge repairs can avert a crisis in the nick of time, such as the fixes to Delaware’s I-495 bridge in 2014 after engineers found cracks in its concrete and deformations in its steel piles. However, those fast repairs can be costly — in this case, $45 million for three months.

The Smartenius team has developed a system to monitor the structural health of bridges using three major components: carbon nanotube-based sensors that can be placed in or on bridges, plus data acquisition hardware and data analysis software.

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