Modern engineers have almost always built bridges from steel and concrete. A new bridge is going high tech. We’ll check it out. Today, on Engineering Works!
The next time you drive across a big bridge, take a look at what it’s made of. Chances are it’s concrete and steel. Just about all of big bridges are. The Brooklyn Bridge. The San Francisco Bay Bridge. The bridge over the Mackinac Strait in Michigan. It makes sense. Put together, steel and concrete are strong and durable, qualities we want bridges to have.
Some engineering researchers in Missouri are looking beyond steel and concrete to more high-tech materials. A composite of glass and graphite fibers mixed in a polymer matrix. Almost like a tennis racquet or golf club. Or your favorite fishing rod. The new material does just about everything engineers need to build bridges. It’s strong, lightweight and durable.
The first one is a short one, only about 30 feet long and big enough to handle pedestrians and light vehicles. It’s built of layers of composite tubes, assembled into a sandwich of beams and flat decks. The engineers fitted it with an array of fiber-optic sensors that will let them keep track of stresses and check for damage or signs of failure.
If everything works the way the engineers think it will, they plan to build three full-scale bridges soon.
We’ve crossed the bridges we came to today, and we’re on the way home. See you next time.
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