Smart Rocks and Wireless Communication System for Real-Time Monitoring and Mitigation of Bridge Scour

The current practice in bridge maintenance is to visually inspect bridge foundation scour by divers every other year. This practice is both uneconomical when a bridge is in good condition and risky missing occurrence of bridge scour in between two inspections. It has at least one additional major shortcoming: visual inspections are qualitative and subjective. Foundation scour has also been monitored with instruments but only in normal operations of bridges. During floods, neither visual inspection by divers nor existing instrumentation provide useful foundation scour data in real time, which is critical for a timely warning, response, and prevention of scour-induced collapsing of bridges in a time window of hours or days during a flood event. The long-term goal of the proposed study is to develop a pragmatic but highly innovative, real-time bridge scour management system with remote sensing and communication technologies for integrated monitoring and mitigation of foundation scour. The short-term objectives of this study are (1) to integrate several alternative commercial measurement and communication technologies into a scour monitoring system with passive and active sensors embedded in 'smart rocks', (2) evaluate the comparative effectiveness of these communication technologies in laboratory and field conditions and improve them for better performances and/or reduced costs in bridge applications, and (3) analyze the movement of smart rocks during testing for determination of scour depth. Smart rocks function as spatially-distributed field agents that can be deployed around a bridge foundation to register both temporal and spatial information on scour process and transmit critical data in real time for an engineering evaluation of scour depth and area. Scour vulnerability of multiple bridges affected by a flood event can then be reported anytime to engineer-in-charge and first responders through a cellular network as needed. The key challenges to develop a real-time scour monitoring system lie in three aspects: (1) accurate sensing of scour process with spatially-distributed smart rocks, (2) wireless transmission of mission-critical data from underwater to a remote station (e.g. engineer office or mobile vehicle parked near a bridge), and (3) real-time engineering evaluation and prediction of bridge scour using temporal and spatial information derived from smart rocks and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The monitoring system can be integrated with intervening techniques to potential foundation erosion, leading to a cost-effective scour management technology. For example, rocks are traditionally used to protect a bridge from scouring effects, but now, with embedded electronics, become part of a wireless, early-warning network that can monitor the process of bridge scour in real time. The deliverables of this study include a prototype scour monitoring system (hardware), a scour depth evaluation model with measured data, a real-time bridge scour management methodology, and a strategic plan for commercialization of the developed and validated technologies. The results and outcomes will dramatically change the state-of-the-art and state-of-practice of both sensing and mitigation technologies, and potentially revolutionize current bridge management systems. This approach will change engineers' perception of structural monitoring from unfavorable to receptive by collecting only mission-critical data and relating data to the ratings of existing bridges based on foundation susceptibility to scour. In the U.S., over 1,500 bridges have collapsed, making scour the number one cause of catastrophic bridge failure. The smart rock technology is a cost-effective solution to address bridge scour issues. In addition, the smart rock technology is directly transferable to other infrastructure installations such as water mains and wastewater collection systems. For example, smart rocks are equally applicable to river banks, dams and levees for their erosion monitoring and mitigation as well as slope stability both during flood events and in normal operations.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Contract Numbers:

      No. RITARS-11-H-MST

    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Department of Transportation

      Research and Innovative Technology Administration
      Washington, DC  USA  20590
    • Project Managers:

      Singh, Caesar

    • Performing Organizations:

      Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla

      325 Butler-Carlton Hall
      1401 N. Pine Street
      Rolla, MO  USA  65401
    • Principal Investigators:

      Pommerenke, David

      Chen, Genda

    • Start Date: 20110601
    • Actual Completion Date: 20130530
    • Source Data: RiP Project 28817

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01463394
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla
    • Contract Numbers: No. RITARS-11-H-MST
    • Files: RiP, USDOT
    • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:22PM