Europe's road and rail infrastructure is dotted with bridges that facilitate transport. When these bridges age, however, they become more dangerous as corrosion and cracks make their appearance, requiring constant monitoring and maintenance. Developing new wireless technologies may facilitate the task of monitoring significantly and could help prevent disasters that arise from collapsing bridges. This was the aim of the EU-funded project 'A wireless network with long range acoustic nodes for total structural health monitoring of bridges' (WI-HEALTH) . The project worked on replacing periodic inspections with ongoing monitoring through a permanent network of sensors. Such a system is much lighter and more energy efficient than existing solutions for monitoring the health of such structures. More specifically, WI-HEALTH developed wireless networks that combine long-range ultrasonic and acoustic emission monitoring in autonomously powered nodes to detect bridge defects such as in welded plate structures. It also developed software to drive the structural health monitoring system to identify defects using advanced trend analysis and data processing. Further work involved studying sensor operation, wireless communication systems and renewable energy power options. After intensive field trials, the project team demonstrated that the system is much more efficient and sensitive than other technologies, showing that defects less than 6 mm deep can be reliably detected. The project's results were disseminated to stakeholders, multimedia and publications, bringing high-tech bridge safety closer to reality.
Bridge, structural health monitoring, wireless network, long-range ultrasonic, acoustic emission, road infrastructure