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Bridge collapse spurs US research

Researchers at an American university are hoping to develop a monitoring system that can warn engineers when a bridge begins to lose stability.

The aim is to prevent disasters such as the collapse in Minneapolis last month.

A two-year study by engineers at Kansas State University will develop a system that can both monitor and sustain a road bridge's load-bearing capacity.

The method uses a wireless sensor network and structural fibre-reinforced polymer to reinforce a bridge if its strength begins to dip.

Under the Intelligent Structural Health Monitoring of Rural Bridges project, the five-strong research team will develop a method that can identify and solve internal discrepancies in bridges using existing resources, according to Asadollah Esmaeily, assistant professor of structural engineering at KSU.

So many factors affect the internal dynamic properties of a bridge that it is vital to inspect bridges internally every year and monitor the effects of strain.

Mr Esmaeily said: "Bridges are a crucial component to the transportation system. If something were wrong often people would not notice until something terrible happened."

The research team have built three identical T-Beams to test fibre reinforced polymer repair and strengthening techniques. It will then monitor strain on the framework using a wireless technology device.