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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information
Geospatial Engineering and Electro Optics articles

CSIC’s award winning collaborative project designing an early warning solution for slope failures at a mainline railway cutting is featured in the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors Geospatial Engineering 2019-2020. 

The article ‘On track: Fibre optic sensing for safer real-time rockfall monitoring of rail cuttings’ describes the project between CSIC, Network Rail and BAM Nuttall to devise a solution to the problem of landslide monitoring at Hooley Cutting, 25km south of London, which carries the main railway line from London to Brighton through the North Downs. 

CSIC designed and trialled two different fibre optic sensing systems for the cutting; the first used discreet fibre Bragg grating (FBG) sensors and the second used distributed fibre optic strain sensing. The system was installed on the cutting by operatives from BAM Ritchies who abseiled from the top to fix bespoke dual cable clamps. Sensor cables were clamped in place and attached to the rockfall mesh along the installation and then routed to the BAM Nuttall operations room, a temporary site office with power, lighting and internet.

Once established, the system could report the location of any change of strain in the mesh as an indication of the accumulation of debris. The monitoring system could replace regular visual inspection so engineers would only be required to investigate locations they have been alerted to, saving time and reducing risk to workers. The Rockfall Early Warning System project, led by Philip Keenan, Xiaomin Xu and Cedric Kechavarzi of CSIC, with Oliver Garnier of BAM Nuttall and Neil Esslemont of Network Rail, was shortlisted in six categories in the 2019 Ground Engineering awards, three New Civil Engineer TechFest 2019 awards, and won the best use of technology award at the Rail Partnership awards this year.

Electro Optics

Electro Optics, the print and digital magazine publishing the latest technological developments, trends and opinions in the photonics industry, has featured an opinion article by CSIC Director, Dr Jennifer Schooling OBE in the October issue. ‘Fibre optics takes the strain in construction’ makes the case for generating richer information from sensor monitoring to secure a better understanding of the behaviour of our assets and inform decisions on materials use, waste and construction and operation processes to reduce carbon emissions. 

The article includes three CSIC projects analysing structural performance using fibre optic monitoring including:  ‘Monitoring performance of reinforced concrete piles’ and ‘Optimising the design of sprayed concrete linings’, led by CSIC Research Associate Nicholas de Battista; and ‘Improving the understanding and capacity of existing assets’, by CSIC PhD student Sam Cocking. Read the full article here.