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The federal highway network is facing major challenges: aging structures, increasing traffic loads, effects of climate change, new quality requirements and a limited budget for road infrastructure. New, innovative approaches must be pursued in order to maintain a reliable road network. This also specifically applies to bridge structures.
At present, their maintenance management is primarily based on regular building inspections. Damages are only considered when they are obvious. This approach is damage-based and reactive.
However, damages and problems of the construction often appear inside the structure, in non-accessible areas and through the actual but often unknown actions on the construction. Bridges of the future should be able to provide information about their condition and its development at an earlier point in time in addition to the visual inspections.
The aim of the project cluster "Smart Bridge (Intelligente Brücke)" launched in 2011 by the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) is to design and further develop the necessary components for such a system: an adaptive system that provides relevant information for holistic assessment.
The main components are seen in the intelligent sensors and the complex modelling. These require intelligent communicating sensor networks, innovative sensors adapted to the bridge structure but also autonomous energy supply concepts. Equally important are detailed structure and damage models as well as reliability-based assessment methods.
The conception of the "Smart Bridge" is intended in addition for new constructions as well: the technical components can be considered during planning process - the structure can be accompanied over the entire life time cycle.
With a variety of research projects, the components of the "Smart Bridge" are currently being developed. The BASt is supported by the interdisciplinary collaboration between universities, research institutes and industry partners.
A first part demonstration of current results within the "Smart Bridge" will be carried out on a pilot bridge from 2015 onwards.