According to the Conversation article, “Smart concrete could pave the way for high-tech, cost-effective roads,” 39 percent of America’s 614,387 bridges are past their lifetime design, and 10% are almost structurally deficient, making them vulnerable to any climatic or natural shocks.
Repairing these infrastructures would cost between two hundred billion dollars to almost a trillion dollars. The costs are passed on to American households and commuters, the article says.
Civil engineers are using technology and research to find cost-effective and smart solutions to address these infrastructure problems. Engineers from the Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technology (SMART) lab developed a self-monitor technology that gathers the condition of roads and bridges in real-time. Damages detected are fixed immediately, which extends the structure’s life.
Sensors are embedded into the concrete pavement to monitor its condition, especially on freshly poured concrete. Real-time information gathered from the sensors informs transportation engineers and construction workers when the cement is completely cured and the right time to open the road for commuters.
Data from sensor technology helps lengthen a structure’s life and prevent any unnecessary traffic delays. The technology is also beneficial for highways and bridges that experience high rates of freeze and thaw.
The engineers have also developed a self-healing pavement that can health itself at an early stage of a crack. A super absorbent polymer in the pavement activates and absorbs the water and produces concrete-like material that fills the cracks caused by the freeze and thaw cycles, thus preventing further damage.
Researchers around the world are exploring applications of technology innovations to improve roadways constructions.
Solar and energy harvesting roads, charging lanes for EVs, smart streetlights, and reducing emissions from construction materials are examples of new technology that researchers are looking into.
Innovations in road technology and roadway constructions can save time, money and improve construction and commuter safety. Self-monitoring sensors can provide engineers with real-time data of the condition of infrastructure to inform better decision-making.
These innovations have the potential to extend the life of infrastructure and change the required renewal investment profile.
Asset managers need to regularly assess and integrate technological improvements and innovations into their infrastructure asset management planning.
PHOTO CREDIT: Karl Hipolito