MSU Researchers Monitoring Bridge Safety with Wireless Sensors

Researchers from Michigan State University in East Lansing and Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to help solve the problem of the many deteriorating bridges across the country.
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Mackinac Bridge
Michigan State University and Washington University are wiring the Mackinac Bridge with up to 2,000 sensors to monitor for structural failures. // Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Researchers from Michigan State University in East Lansing and Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to help solve the problem of the many deteriorating bridges across the country.

The investigators are testing wireless and self-powered sensors on Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge that are powered by traffic vibrations and could detect a bridge failure before it happens. This will make the Mackinac Bridge the first fully instrumented bridge in the country using this advanced technology.

The first 20 prototype sensors were installed on the Mackinac Bridge in 2016. After the sensors proved their durability and performed as intended, researchers started the next phase of testing with the installation of up to 2,000 of the tiny devices. This will allow them to explore the logistics of an even larger deployment and provide useful monitoring data to the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

The successful large-scale deployment of this low-cost sensing technology could dramatically transform the economics of bridge preservation and management and improve the serviceability and safety of bridges.

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