The Department of Transportation (DOT)-Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to SC Solutions to develop an innovative technology framework for operational monitoring and damage diagnosis of bridge structures. Called Digital Twin, the technology is an integration of high-fidelity finite element (FE) models with sensor data through advanced model updating techniques using Bayesian data assimilation.  The technology can be used for structural assessment and damage diagnosis of bridge structures under traffic loading.

The U.S. has over 600,000 bridges, of which nearly 40% are 50 years old or older.  The average age of America’s bridges keeps climbing and many of them are approaching the end of their nominal service life.  According to the ASCE 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, one in 11 bridges were structurally deficient and more than one in 8 were functionally obsolete.  Replacement or rehabilitation of such a large number of bridges cannot be achieved overnight and without significant cost. Since structurally deficient and obsolete bridges will likely remain in service for a significant time period, ensuring public safety necessitates close monitoring of bridge systems to extend their service lives, guide the inspection process, and prioritize maintenance and rehabilitation decisions.

The objective of this SBIR project is to develop an integrated solution for damage identification (detection, localization, and quantification) of bridge structures using a non-contact image-based measurement scheme.  Computer vision techniques will be used to extract information from raw images, which will be used for joint FE model updating and vehicular load estimation.  The updated model can be maintained as a digital twin for damage diagnosis of the structural system.  The objective is to provide transportation officials with a cost effective and informed approach to bridge management decision strategies.

Through the first phase of this small business innovative research (SBIR) project, the Structural Engineering Division of SC Solution will collaborate with the Systems and Control Division, and with Professor Ertugrul Taciroglu’s team from the University of California, Los Angeles, to develop the algorithms and run a validation study based on numerically simulated data.  The second phase of this project will include the prototype development and validation in real-world settings.

“This is an exciting opportunity for SC Solutions to develop a technology solution framework to assist the owners and managers of aging infrastructures across the nation,” says Dr. Hamed Ebrahimian, a Senior Engineer at SC Solution who serves this project as the Principal Investigator (PI).  Dr Ebrahimian continues “From buildings to bridges, and from nuclear power plants to critical lifelines, Digital Twin Technology can provide a robust solution for operational monitoring and rapid post-disaster structural assessment and response management.”