Monitoring bridge infrastructure
A Gates Cambridge Scholar has spoken at a major UK meeting of bridge owners on one of the main causes of bridge erosion.
Kasun Kariyawasam spoke at the UK Bridge Owners Forum, a triannual meeting of major bridge owning organisations in the UK such as Network Rail, Highways England, London Underground and the transport authorities of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland. The forum, held on 31st October 2017 at King's College, Cambridge focused on safeguarding the national bridge assets in the UK against scour-induced failures.
Scour is the erosion of soil from the bed and banks of a river channel due to the effects of fast-flowing water. High scour levels around a bridge foundation can lead to bridge instability and even collapse. Scour has been identified as one of the most prevalent causes of bridge failure around the world. For example, in the United States, scour and flooding related events have accounted for more than 50% of the reported bridge failures since 1989.
There are numerous techniques available to monitor scour, ranging from scuba divers using crude depth measuring rods to high-tech autonomous underwater vehicles. However, most of these techniques have serious limitations related to reliability, robustness and cost.
Kasun  talked about the recent developments of scour monitoring techniques around the world, highlighting their advantages and limitations. Kasun, under the supervision of Professor Campbell Middleton at the Department of Engineering, is developing a scour monitoring technique that can identify structures at risk from scour which has the potential to assist bridge managers to make more reliable maintenance decisions.
*Picture of Reading Bridge courtesy of Wikipedia.