Sensing and Computing for Intelligent Infrastructure


Structural Health Monitoring

Bridge engineers are under constant pressure to keep an aging highway infrastructure in service while facing tightening budgets for maintenance and repair. Measurements could help in accurately evaluating the condition of a structure and thereby prevent unnecessary repair or replacement. Developments in computing and sensing technology have significantly reduced the costs of measuring structures. These developments have also opened up many exciting avenues for research in civil engineering. For instance, there is an opportunity to continuous monitor bridges to have real-time updates on their condition and also detect onset of damage or deterioration. Our group's interest is in exploring how measurements could aid in the design, maintenance and management of buildings and infrastructure systems. In this context, we are investigating (a) techniques for measurement interpretation, (b) sensor placement strategies, (c) the influence of ambient conditions on measurements and (d) uncertainty propagation.

Bridge Scour and Hydrodynamical Issues

Flooding is the leading cause of bridge failures around the world. Flooding can lead to scour around bridge piers and abutments, and create enormous uplift and lateral pressures on the superstructure. These effects can also be further worsened by the accumulation of the debris in front of bridges. We are interested in developing reliable methods of assessing the risks to bridges from flooding. We aim to do this by first understanding the complex fluid-structure interaction in this problem through both physical experimentation and numerical modelling. The risks from debris blockage are currently under investigation as part of an EPSRC-funded project. Further details can be found here.

Computing in Civil Engineering

We have wide-ranging interests in the applications of computing techniques for the design and maintenance of the built environment. We have developed novel approaches for measurement interpretation that are inspired from data mining and signal processing techniques. We are interested in the use of search and optimization methods for the design of buildings. We are also studying new developments in construction informatics such as Building Information Models and its impact on project delivery and management. The benefits of having sensors in the construction environment is another area of interest. They could help in resource management and for improving health and safety. Their use in buildings could also lead to better energy usage and reduced lifecycle costs.

Novel Materials

We are studying applications for novel composites in civil engineering. An increasing trend in the UK and abroad is the use of fibre-reinforced polymers (FRP) for the retrofit of highway structures. The use of FRP for retrofit is a relatively new method that is inexpensive and also minimizes disruption to traffic. Our group is interested in evaluating the performance of both externally-bonded FRP and near-surface mounted FRP retrofits. Another area of research is in the use of auxetics as reinforcement in concrete beams. Auxetics are a unique class of materials that have a negative poisson's ratio. We are working with the Exeter Advanced Technologies (X-AT) to evaluate the potential benefits of auxetic reinforcements.

Non-Invasive Approaches for Condition Assessment

Non-destructive approaches such as acoustic emission have shown great potential for condition assessment of civil structures. We have been investigating the application of nonlinear ultrasonics for structural assessment in collaboration with Theta Technologies. We have received a research award from the IStructE for evaluating the strength of externally-bonded FRP retrofits using nonlinear ultrasonics. A recent student project involved a study on its potential to support the condition assessment of buried sewer pipes. Further studies on using nonlinear acoustic measurements for the condition assessment of concrete are also underway.

Contact: Prakash Kripakaran, University of Exeter, Harrison Building, North Park Road, Exeter EX4 4QF.