A project to pair remote-sensor technology with artificial intelligence to inspect bridges for structural damage is among nine Western initiatives to be granted funding through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF).
The Canadian Foundation for Innovation announced the $2.6 million investment on Aug. 11 as part of a $77-million investment into 332 research infrastructure projects at 50 universities across the country.
Engineering professor Ayan Sadhu said his project aims to deliver “rapid, robust, remote and real-time” bridge inspections.
“We have an aging infrastructure with many bridges at or near their recommended lifespan. At the same time, the existing inspection technology is time-consuming and labour-intensive,” Sadhu said.
Conventional Inspections usually entail temporarily closing a bridge – a major disruption on high-traffic structures – in order to do a visual inspection and install instruments that measure bridge integrity under load.
Sadhu’s team is developing vehicle-mounted sensors that, when driven across a bridge, would simultaneously send valuable signals back to the lab. The lab’s artificial intelligence system would then diagnose whether, and to what extent, cracks or other flaws have developed in the bridge structure.
With the funding from JELF, his team intends to test the technology’s sensitivity and capabilities by simulating a wide range of conditions on small-scale models in the lab, and traversing the little spans with sensor-equipped, remote-operated vehicles and vision sensors.
The new laboratory and this intensive experimental program will enable Sadhu’s team to solve the existing challenges of structural inspection using mobile sensors, and develop guidelines for test vehicles.
The technology would “create a new horizon” in bridge inspection and could also be adapted for use in other structures such as dams, towers and high-rise buildings, Sadhu said.
Supporting science and improved quality of life
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said these investments support science and research and also improve the Canadian economy, environment and quality of life.
“Our researchers have always thought big. Now, more than ever, they need state-of-the-art labs and equipment to turn their visions into reality. Investing in our university research infrastructure is key to our continuing role as an innovation leader in wide-ranging fields, from Indigenous research to quantum computing, from neurobiology to advanced robotics,” Champagne said.
The other eight Western JELF recipients and their work are:
- Anita Christie, kinesiology in Faculty of Health Sciences: neurophysiology of acute and persistent concussion in younger and older adults
- Matthew Grol, physiology and pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry: gene therapy development for musculoskeletal diseases
- Amanda Grzyb, Faculty of Information and Media Studies: a collaborative research initiative called, Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador
- Arghya Paul, chemical and biochemical engineering, Faculty of Engineering: using bioactive hydrogels for #D bioprinting of living tissues
- Gary Shaw, Jimmy Dikeakos and Peter Stathopulos,biochemistry, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry : NMR instrumentation for high resolution protein structures, high throughput drug screening and metabolomics
- Kevin Shoemaker, Keith St. Lawrence, kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences: cerebrovascular-neurometabolic interactions in humans
- Lars Stenthof, economics, Faculty of Social Science: memory-intensive high-dimensional models for financial data and risk management
- Matthew Teeter, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry: optical coordinate measuring device to quantify wear of orthopaedic implants