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Engineers Use Composite Materials to Extend Life of Existing Bridges

4 April 2009 No Comment

doublerTechnology.am (Apr. 4, 2009) — University of Kansas engineers have developed a new kind of technology that could double the life of exiting bridges. “This technology will allow our existing bridges — to be safer for longer,” said Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering at KU.

The uses of composites can double the life of steel structures and the application is created with an eye toward cost and ease of use.

Composite doublers were earlier used to repair cracks around stress points and rivets in airplanes. They take stress that would cause the rivet or crack to fail and allow that stress to pass through the composite material and over the rivet or crack without stressing the airplane.

To create these “detail doubler fuses” for bridges, layers of composite material are applied to a joint or stress point on a bridge. Once set, the doubler takes the stress from a car or truck and allows it to pass without the joint receiving any stress, extending the life of the bridge.

Once the doubler begins to wear out, it also will function as a simple warning system for bridge inspectors and road workers.

We are building these as a fatigue ‘fuse, Barrett-Gonzalez said. When they are about to fail, they pop off of the joint, and we will include an indicator — whether it’s bright red paint or some other form — that will serve as an obvious sign that it needs to be replaced.

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