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A distributed piezo-polymer scour net for bridge scour hole topography monitoring


Scour is one of the leading causes of overwater bridge failures worldwide. While monitoring systems have already been implemented or are still being developed, they suffer from limitations such as high costs, inaccuracies, and low reliability, among others. Also, most sensors only measure scour depth at one location and near the pier. Thus, the objective is to design a simple, low cost, scour hole topography monitoring system that could better characterize the entire depth, shape, and size of bridge scour holes. The design is based on burying a robust, waterproofed, piezoelectric sensor strip in the streambed. When scour erodes sediments to expose the sensor, flowing water excites it to cause the generation of time-varying voltage signals. An algorithm then takes the time-domain data and maps it to the frequency-domain for identifying the sensor's resonant frequency, which is used for calculating the exposed sensor length or scour depth. Here, three different sets of tests were conducted to validate this new technique. First, a single sensor was tested in ambient air, and its exposed length was varied. Upon verifying the sensing concept, a waterproofed prototype was buried in soil and tested in a tank filled with water. Sensor performance was characterized as soil was manually eroded away, which simulated various scour depths. The results confirmed that sensor resonant frequencies decreased with increasing scour depths. Finally, a network of 11 sensors was configured to form a distributed monitoring system in the lab. Their exposed lengths were adjusted to simulate scour hole formation and evolution. Results showed promise that the proposed sensing system could be scaled up and used for bridge scour topography monitoring.

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