Atkins-Jacobs JV to lead tech trials for bridge maintenance

This summer, an Atkins-Jacobs joint venture (JV) will lead trials of technology aimed at enabling self-monitoring and self-maintaining bridges. The trials will likely involve the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Known as the Structures Moonshot, this research project by National Highways focuses on addressing the corrosion of steel elements found in bridges and structures, particularly those encased in concrete. 

The Structures Moonshot project specifically targets two features: the steel tendons in post-tensioned structures, and the reinforcement within concrete half-joints, which are constructed to support adjacent spans. Assessing the condition of these features often requires intrusive investigations and can cause disruptions, such as road or lane closures.

National Highways aims to find solutions that can detect defects earlier and resolve issues in a less disruptive and non-destructive manner. This aligns with their vision of self-monitoring and self-maintaining bridges.

The Atkins-Jacobs JV will lead the project, conducting extensive testing and research to identify suitable technologies for advanced non-destructive testing (NDT) on structures. They are actively seeking new ideas, including the exploration of machine learning and AI to detect hidden structural defects. Possible solutions may involve advanced sensors, imaging technologies, and machine learning algorithms.

Selected entrants will have the unique opportunity to conduct real-world testing of their innovations using sample bridge sections taken from the decommissioned A14 Huntingdon Railway Viaduct. The results of these tests will be shared to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing within the construction industry.

Colin George, National Highways deputy head of structures and project sponsor for Moonshot, said: “Robust maintenance and inspection regimes are in place for all of our structures, but if we could find new ways of detecting defects sooner, it will revolutionise our bridge maintenance, safety and efficiency.

“The underlying ambition of Moonshot is to maximise the benefits of recent and rapid advances in technology, tackling the increasing challenge of managing and maintaining the safety and use of our ageing bridge stock.

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