While the risk of bridge collapse is statistically quite low within its designed lifespan, the danger increases each year it remains in operation after that time.1 As we’ve seen around the world with tragedies in a number of countries, when they do fall down, it can result in disastrous costs to human life.
Checking all the world’s bridges for structural integrity is a costly business – and one that’s not always prioritised in government budgets.2 While technology exists that can monitor the stress and loads on bridges, it is implemented haphazardly, and not necessarily mandated in new construction.
Smart construction materials such as shape shifting metal that remembers its original form could change the game, prolonging the life of traditional materials.3 And the development of smart concrete that can detect its own stress fractures to allow for timely intervention.4
Reducing the amount of maintenance that needs to be funded, coatings, adhesives and sealants that can heal themselves to avoid corrosion will give ships, bridges and other underwater metal structures less need for constant monitoring.5 Self-healing concrete that fixes itself with the use of limestone creating bacteria, could reduce the damage done by water, allowing concrete to plug up its own fissures and protect any iron rebar inside from corrosion.6
In buildings too, smart bricks can store electricity for later use,7 or, as seen in the below infographic, be made from unwanted and hazardous material such as cigarette butts – providing a better way of disposing of current waste.
As the proliferation of IoT sensors continues, and industries are transformed, there will only be more ways to cut costs without compromising safety. This is good news for everyone and will hopefully help reduce the number of construction failures we experience worldwide.
Image credit: Studio Roosegarrde