Device Created at MSU Could Save Big Money on Road Repairs

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

Repairing roads and bridges is expensive under the best of circumstances.

For proof, look no further than the state capitol where lawmakers can't find the $1.2 billion Gov. Rick Snyder wanted for maintenance.

But if you can find the cracks while they're still small, you could save a fortune, and MSU researchers are trying to do just that.

"Can we predict what will happen before it actually happens," asks Nizar Lajnef, an assistance professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State.

The small idea which could soon make a big difference in the way our roads are monitored and repaired starts with a tiny, self-powered wireless sensor implanted right into the pavement.

"When the crack is too small and trying to propagate that's when you detect it and then we transmit the information," Lajnef said. "We could know that a year from today a crack will show up in a certain location... and can plan to fix it ahead of time."

It's an approach Lajnef said will save a lot of money.

The device is self-sufficient and needs no batteries or a power source and instead uses energy produced from vibrations from traffic driving on the pavement.

Lajnef said it would be a fairly simple process to retrofit existing roads and bridges.

"We're using existing technologies for data storage and data management," he said. "We tried to make it as easy as possible... to implement the technology."

The project has already received nearly $2 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation and prototype testing is currently underway in Washington D.C.

M-DOT has also offered a letter of support to the project and has said they will be able to install sensors on a bridge in the Lansing area within the next five years, according to Lajznef.

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