How Highway Bridges Sing
A team of BYU engineers has found that by listening to how a highway bridge sings in the rain they can determine serious flaws in the structure.
Employing a method called impact-echo testing, professors Brian Mazzeo and Spencer Guthrie can diagnose the health of a bridge’s deck based on the acoustic footprint produced by a little bit of water.
Specifically, the sound created when a droplet makes impact can reveal hidden dangers in the bridge.
“There is a difference between water hitting intact structures and water hitting flawed structures,” Mazzeo said. “We can detect things you can’t see with a visual inspection; things happening within the bridge itself.”
The study presents a more efficient and cost-effective method to address the mounting safety concerns over bridge corrosion and aging across the U.S. and beyond.
While impact-echo testing for bridges is nothing new to engineers, the BYU researchers are the first to use water droplets to produce acoustic responses. Current testing relies on solid objects such as hammers and chains.
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