Development of a Wireless Sensor Network to Detect Riverbed Scour During Flooding Events, 20-R8138

Printer Friendly Version

Principal Investigators
Ronald T. Green
Ben Abbott
Gregory Willden
 Donald Poole  

Inclusive Dates:  02/11/10 – 06/11/10

Background - Approximately 80 percent of the 600,000 highway bridges in the United States pass over creeks, rivers and streams. The most common threat to existing or new bridges is riverbed scour that undermines bridge piers and abutments, thus jeopardizing the safety and stability of the bridge. There is a two-fold need for accurately detecting and monitoring bridge pier scour during flood events: (i) real-time monitoring of bridge scour that can detect situations where bridge structural integrity is potentially compromised, and (ii) accurate measurement of the transient inception and progression of riverbed scour that adds more complete evaluation of the evolution of scour for specific hydraulic conditions. Current bridge scour technology is not precise and is prone to disruption during severe flood events. This project developed a proof-of-concept, cost-effective, accurate sensor network that, in real-time, detects and monitors riverbed scour during a flood event.

Approach - The concept for riverbed scour detection is based on the removal of a sensor node from a sensor stack. The remaining nodes would communicate with the mother node located at the base of the stack. Removal of the top node would alert the remaining nodes of its departure and indicate scour erosion to the depth of the removed node. Accuracy of riverbed scour detection would only be as accurate as placement of the sensor assembly. The vertical resolution of scouring measurements would be limited only by the height of each sensor node. Vertical resolution of less than one inch is certainly feasible in the envisioned riverbed scour detection system.

Accomplishments - The project team successfully developed a refined conceptualization of a riverbed scour detection system. The proposed system is innovative and has the potential for significant improvement over existing riverbed scour detection systems. Limitations and feasibility in system elements regarding scour detection, signal transmission, and power supply are now sufficiently identified to support development of a riverbed scour detection system. The conceptualized sensor system is flexible and can be adapted for specific river and bridge applications.

2010 Program Home