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The Protection of Northern Ireland Bridges | BUILDING MAGAZINE

The Protection of Northern Ireland Bridges

A sensor which gives an early warning signal if a bridge is at risk of scour has been developed by a university researcher.

An initial prototype sensor has been developed by Myra Lydon at Queen’s University Belfast in partnershipwith Somni Solutions and has now been tested.

It is hoped that the sensor will be installed on a Northern Ireland bridge this summer before more research and then a possible wider roll out.

In 2009 there was a terrible disaster when scour failure occurred suddenly in Malahide, Co Dublin. More often than not there is no prior visible sign to the distress to structure. The bridge in Malahide was inspected only weeks before its collapse and passed inspection but then failed only seconds after a full passenger train crossed. Fortunately it narrowly avoided a catastrophe.

It is imperative that we protect our bridges and be able to detect scour before incidents like this occur. The sensor that has been developed detects changes in the riverbed prior to damage happening to the bridge. This can provide an early warning and help to prevent widespread bridge failure when we are faced with extreme climate events such as storms and flooding.

This project has been funded by UK Research & Innovativion’s Impact Acceleration Accounts. Invest NI is providing additional funding for market exploration.

The sensor is to be installed together with other structural monitoring equipment to ensure the safety of ageing bridges.

Dr Lydon is working with Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure’s highway structures unit to find a suitable bridge test site.