Image: Still from CSIC video about the Staffordshire Alliance project. See video here
Shortlisted in the Transport section, CSIC’s Advanced Instrumentation of Structures showcases the use of fibre optic technology in the instrumentation of bridges for the Stafford Area Improvements Programme. This innovation represents a step-change in condition monitoring, and has the potential to: influence maintenance practices and structural design codes; help redefine best practice and make structures of the future safer, more reliable, more efficient and more cost effective.
“Capturing the response of the structure at this level of resolution allows us to build up an incredibly detailed picture of how our bridges are behaving and to reconsider the assumptions we make about them,” said Dr Niamh Gibbons.
Working with Industry Partners Network Rail, Laing O’Rourke and Atkins, CSIC engaged with the Staffordshire Alliance at the early stages of this project to deploy novel fibre optic sensor (FOS) networks for use in short and long-term performance monitoring, delivering the most comprehensively instrumented new rail bridges in the UK.
David Lawrance, Client Engineering Manager, Stafford Area Improvements Programme, said: “This innovation represents a huge opportunity for Network Rail in three main regards; firstly, it has the potential to enable refinement of standard designs to make them more structurally efficient and therefore cheaper; secondly, there is the potential for longer term monitoring (perhaps remotely) of structural performance/degradation; thirdly, there is the potential to extend life beyond that normally allowed by inspection-based assessments.
"The rail industry faces huge pressures on capital, renewal and maintenance expenditure and so opportunities such as those offered by this innovation are highly relevant to our business priorities going forward.”
In a broader sense, CSIC's fibre-optic bridge monitoring systems, installed on two of the new bridges constructed for the Staffordshire Alliance scheme, will serve as long-term demonstrators for this technology, showcasing the UK as a world-leading innovator in civil infrastructure sensing.
"Research investigating how bridge monitoring systems can inform performance-based design and data-driven asset management approaches is ongoing at the University of Cambridge, and we expect this project to play a vital role in advancing the current state-of-the-art in these areas," said Dr Liam Butler of CSIC.
The IET’s annual Innovation Awards celebrate the very best innovations from both industry and academia, sharing landmark work and developments taking place across many important areas of science, engineering and technology. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on November 16.
The Staffordshire Alliance project has won the best Major Project at the Rail Industry Innovation Awards (Modern Railways) and the Collaborative Working accolade at the 2016 UK Railway Industry Awards (Rail Technology Magazine).