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Wireless monitoring of scour and re-deposited sediment evolution at bridge foundations based on soil electromagnetic properties

Michalis, Panagiotis and Tarantino, Alessandro and Tachtatzis, Christos and Judd, Martin D (2015) Wireless monitoring of scour and re-deposited sediment evolution at bridge foundations based on soil electromagnetic properties. Smart Materials and Structures, 24 (12). ISSN 0964-1726

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Hydraulic structures constitute the most vulnerable elements of transportation infrastructure. Recent increases in precipitation have resulted in severe and more frequent flash flooding incidents. This has put bridges over waterways at higher risk of failure due to scour. This study presents a new sensor for measuring scour depth variation and sediment deposition processes in the vicinity of the foundations to underpin systems for early warning of impending structural failure. The monitoring system consists of a probe with integrated electromagnetic sensors designed to detect changes in the dielectric permittivity of the surrounding bridge foundation. The probe is equipped with a wireless interface and was evaluated to assess its ability to detect scour and sediment deposition in various soil types and under temperature and water salinity conditions that would commonly occur in a practical installation environment. A novel methodology is also developed enabling discrimination between in-situ and re-deposited sediment delivering vital information about the load bearing capacity of the foundation. The experimental approach was validated using ‘static’ scour simulations and real-time open channel flume experiments. Results indicate that the sensor is highly sensitive to underwater bed level variations and can provide an economical and accurate structural health monitoring alternative to existing instruments.