How reliable and durable fiber reinforced composite bridges

composite bridge, fiber-reinforced composite bridge deck, fiber-reinforced composites in road construction
Credit: IACMI

The project intended to demonstrate how reliable and durable fiber-reinforced composite bridge decks are, has been launched in the United States. A new high-tech bridge equipped with fiber-reinforced composite deck and embedded with fiber optic sensors took over an old concrete bridge in Knoxville (Tennessee). Built-in sensors help to monitor the composite deck system over the bridge lifecycle .

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACM) with a group of partners have developed the 16-feet-long and 25-feet-wide bridge deck from fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite material. High-strength and corrosion resistant deck panels are 90 percent lighter than those made of concrete.

The panels were transported to the bridge site to the old bridge pillars to be installed using a forklift. Wireless technology equipped with electronic and electromechanical sensors will monitor the performance of the composite deck (traffic counts, thermal and hygroscopic data) remotely via cloud computing for thorough analyses.

Lack of durability data is one of the major barriers of the adoption of novel and advance materials including carbon, basalt, or glass fiber reinforced polymeric composites in civil infrastructure,

said Dayakar Penumadu, the Characterization Fellow for Materials and Processing for IACMI.

Bridge decks are the most vulnerable and rapidly deteriorating element of bridge structure. Defects in structural elements render bridges unusable, which is especially noticeable in small towns. Modular fiber-reinforced composite decks have the potential to provide an inexpensive, durable and sustainable replacement for conventional materials.

The installation process requires less installation time, construction costs, heavy machinery, special equipment and workforce. This type of bridge decks can offer a 100-year lifespan with minimal maintenance.

IACMI with partners are developing a comprehensive case study based on the bridge project that will include comparing total costs of a typical concrete bridge and one using an FRP bridge deck.

An ecologically sustainable 15 m long footbridge made of basalt-fiber composite has been serving for three years as a canal crossing in the business district of Rotterdam (Netherlands) Schiphol Logistics Park that is close to the famous airport.

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