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Sensor to Prevent Bridge Collapse Developed by Queen's Uuniversity Researcher in Belfast

22nd June 2022
Dr Maura Lydon of Queen’s University Belfast who has developed a sensor to detect
Dr Maura Lydon of QUB who has developed a sensor to detect "scour" or erosion causing bridge collapse

A new sensor to detect erosion of riverbeds and banks which can cause bridge collapse has been developed by a Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) researcher.

The erosion, known as “scour”, is regarded as the leading cause worldwide of major structural failure of bridges.

One recent example was the bridge collapse in Malahide, north Dublin, in 2009.

QUB researcher Dr Myra Lydon, who has been working on a sensor since last year to tackle the problem, says an initial prototype has been developed in partnership with Somni Solutions Ltd, and testing is now complete.

She hopes it will be in place on a Northern Ireland bridge this summer. After further research, there will be a wider rollout of the sensor, she says.

“In 2019 it was estimated that within the UK an average of 8.2 million passenger journeys are lost annually due to the risk of bridge scour, with an associated economic cost of £60 million,” Dr Lydon says.

“In 2009, we witnessed catastrophic bridge failure in Malahide, Co Dublin where scour failure occurred suddenly,” she says.

“With scour, there is often no prior visible sign of distress to structure. In Malahide, the bridge was inspected just weeks prior to its collapse and had passed inspection but then failed seconds after a full passenger train crossed. Thankfully it narrowly avoided the catastrophe,” she adds.

“The sensor that we have developed detects changes in the riverbed prior to the damage occurring on the bridge. This can provide an early warning, which undoubtedly is safer and helps to prevent widespread bridge failures when we are faced with extreme climate events, such as flooding,” she explains.

Dr Lydon is working with the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure to identify a suitable bridge test site.

The sensor will be installed along with other structural health monitoring equipment to ensure the safety of ageing bridges, QUB says.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Impact Acceleration Accounts, while Invest NI has provided additional funding for market exploration.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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