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October 31, 2016

Living Bridge Project shows off potential of "smart" infrastructure to provide services

Ordinary bridge equipped with ability to self-diagnose and report back on livability issues, such as traffic and pollution

Engineers at the University of New Hampshire are raising the bar on what 21st century infrastructure systems can do. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), they're outfitting the Memorial Bridge, which links Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Kittery, Maine, with sensors to monitor everything from structural stability to traffic to environmental health. The bridge's new sensors will even be powered by tidal energy, a renewable energy source.

They call it a "living bridge," and it exemplifies the future of smart, sustainable, user-centered transportation infrastructure. Ultimately, a suite of 40 sensors will create a self-diagnosing, self-reporting smart bridge that engages innovators in sensor and renewable technology by creating an incubator platform on a working bridge, from which researchers can field test and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of emerging technologies.

The Living Bridge Project will also serve as a community platform to educate citizens about innovations at the site and about how incorporating renewable energy into bridge design can lead to a sustainable transportation infrastructure with impact far beyond the region.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF grant #1430260, The Living Bridge: The Future of Smart, User-Centered Transportation Infrastructure. It's funded through NSF's Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program.

The project receives additional funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Ann Kellan, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.