Smart Rocks for Bridge Scour Monitoring: Design and Localization Using Electromagnetic Techniques and Embedded Orientation Sensors

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Smart Rocks for Bridge Scour Monitoring: Design and Localization Using Electromagnetic Techniques and Embedded Orientation Sensors

Yuhong Liu

Author: Radchenko, Andro (Missouri University of Science and Technology), 2017, Advisor: Pommerenke, David

River bridge scour is an erosion process in which flowing water removes sediment materials (such as sand, rocks) from a bridge foundation, river beds and banks. As a result, the level of the river bed near a bridge pier is lowering such that the bridge foundation stability can be compromised, and the bridge can collapse. The scour is a dynamic process, which can accelerate rapidly during a flood event. Thus, regular monitoring of the scour progress is necessary to be performed at most river bridges. Present techniques are usually expensive, require large man/hour efforts, and often lack the real-time monitoring capabilities.

In this dissertation a new method—‘Smart Rocks Network for bridge scour monitoring’ is introduced. The method is based on distributed wireless sensors embedded in ground underwater nearby the bridge pillars. The sensor nodes are unconstrained in movement, are equipped with years-lasting batteries and intelligent custom designed electronics, which minimizes power consumption during operation and communication. The electronic part consists of a microcontroller, communication interfaces, orientation and environment sensors (such as are accelerometer, magnetometer, temperature and pressure sensors), supporting power supplies and circuitries. Embedded in the soil nearby a bridge pillar the Smart Rocks can move/drift together with the sediments, and act as the free agent probes transmitting the unique signature signals to the base-station monitors. Individual movement of a Smart Rock can be remotely detected processing the orientation sensors reading. This can give an indication of the on-going scour progress, and set a flag for the on-site inspection. The map of the deployed Smart Rocks Network can be obtained utilizing the custom developed in-network communication protocol with signals intensity (RSSI) analysis. Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) is applied for map reconstruction. Analysis of the map can provide detailed insight into the scour progress and topology. Smart Rocks Network wireless communication is based on the magnetoinductive (MI) link, at low (125 KHz) frequency, allowing for signal to penetrate through the water, rocks, and the bridge structure. The dissertation describes the Smart Rocks Network implementation, its electronic design and the electromagnetic/computational intelligence techniques used for the network mapping.


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