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NMSU researcher receives $400,000 to build second interstate 'smart bridge'

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University has received a $400,000 grant to install "smart bridge" technology on a new bridge to be constructed on Interstate 25 at the village of Doņa Ana.

riss, a professor of civil engineering, received the grant from the Federal Highway Administration through its Innovative Bridge Research and Construction program.

The grant will enable Idriss to install fiber-optic sensors in the bridge's concrete beams. These sensors will relay information about the effects of stress on the bridge long before any signs of aging begin to show visibly, allowing engineers to address potential problems before they become serious and costly.

The bridge will be the second interstate highway bridge in New Mexico that Idriss has fitted with this type of technology. The first one, on Interstate 10 over University Avenue in Las Cruces, opened in July 2004 and was the first interstate highway bridge in the nation to be fitted with such technology.

The new bridge is being built as part of a $5.7 million project to reconstruct the I-25 interchange at Doņa Ana. The project is expected to begin in August 2005.

The new bridge will be cast in Albuquerque by Rinker Prestress. At the time the bridge is cast, Idriss will embed sensors as well as fiber-optic lines that will shoot beams of light through the structure.

Once the bridge is in place, researchers will run light through the sensors four times a day so they can collect readings at various temperatures. As the bridge is stressed, the properties of the light change. These changes are picked up by the sensors and relayed to a data collection box.

The new bridge in Doņa Ana will be the first "smart bridge" to be monitored remotely. Data from the bridge will be transmitted to NMSU. Researchers are able to directly download readings from the bridge in Las Cruces because it is located near the NMSU campus.

The bridge in Dona Ana also will be used to test a new sensor that measures the amount of moisture in concrete. This sensor is being developed by the Federal Highway Administration.

"The amount of moisture in early-age concrete determines problems such as cracking that appear later," Idriss said.

Idriss said one Ph.D. student and several master's degree students will be involved in the new bridge research project.

Idriss said construction of this newest bridge shows that "smart bridge" technology is on the road to becoming standard in bridge construction. Since the first "smart bridge" was opened in Las Cruces, Idriss has received requests from around the world from researchers who want to apply the technology in their countries.

Idriss said researchers have already learned a lot from the first "smart bridge," which was also the first in New Mexico to utilize high-performance concrete.

"We have learned a lot about the bridge's structure and materials that we can apply to future bridge projects," Idriss said. "This will allow us to make new bridges that last longer and cost less to build."