Project title: Scour Monitoring and Failure Prediction for Safe and Resilient Transportation Infrastructures
Source of support: National Science Foundation

Scour monitoring can prevent scour-induced damage and failure of overwater bridges. Two novel scour sensing techniques with the potential for continuous and robust monitoring during flood events are proposed. First, a small-scale piezoelectric rod functioning based on the concept of a vibrating cantilever beam is designed, fabricated, and calibrated (Fig. 1). The second sensing system utilizes commercially available miniature dissolved oxygen (DO) probes (Fig. 2). DO probes operate as scour sensors due to a pronounced difference between the oxygen levels in the riverbed and flowing water. Both sensing techniques were examined when deployed as arrays around a small-scale bridge pier in flume tests. It was demonstrated that both sensors can detect scour as it occurs and continue to function as soil is redeposited in the scour hole. Ongoing research is aimed at creating a practical cost-value framework for scour sensor selection and interpretation.

Read more about this topic in an article published in The Economist.
Scour ARMOR Piezoelectric Sensors
Fig. 1: Buried cantilevered piezoelectric scour sensors are excited by ambient flowing water, and their dynamic properties vary depending on their exposed lengths (scour depth).
Scour ARMOR Dissolved Oxygen Sensors
Fig. 2: Dissolved oxygen sensors are buried along a bridge pier, and drastic changes in DO levels indicate their exposure to ambient water due to scour.