USDA Forest Products Laboratory
Brent Pharesbphares@iastate.edu email >
Bridge Research Engineer, BEC
About the research
Nationwide, bridges are deteriorating at a rate faster than they can be rehabilitated and maintained. This has resulted in a search for new methods to rehabilitate, repair, manage, and construct bridges. As a result, structural health monitoring and smart structure concepts have emerged to help improve bridge management. In the case of timber bridges, however, a limited amount of research as been conducted on long-term structural health monitoring solutions, and this is especially true in regards to historic covered timber bridges. To date, evaluation efforts of timber bridges have focused primarily on visual inspection data to determine the structural integrity of timber structures.
To fill this research need and help improve timber bridge inspection and management strategies, a 5-year research plan to develop a smart timber bridge structure was undertaken. The overall goal of the 5-year plan was to develop a turnkey system to analyze, monitor, and report on the performance and condition of timber bridges. This report outlines one phase of the 5-year research plan and focuses on developing and attaching moisture sensors onto timber bridge components. The goal was to investigate the potential for sensor technologies to reliably monitor the in situ moisture content of the timber members in historic covered bridges, especially those recently rehabilitated with glulam materials. The timber-specific moisture sensors detailed in this report and the data collected from them will assist in advancing the smart timber bridge.