Research Beat: UConn researchers seek to improve state bridges

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Arash Zaghi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut. Among other researchers, Zaghi is patenting measures to improve Connecticut’s bridges.  Photo courtesy of the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Material Sciences

Arash Zaghi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut. Among other researchers, Zaghi is patenting measures to improve Connecticut’s bridges. Photo courtesy of the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Material Sciences

Researchers at the University of Connecticut are patenting methods to improve bridges across the state. 

Arash Zaghi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, is leading research in the School of Engineering surrounding bridges. 

Most recently, this research has led to a patent for force sensing sliding bearings for Zaghi. Bridge bearings are the part of the bridge that connects the bridge piers, which hold the bridge up to the bridge deck, the part that cars drive on.

Zhagi’s innovation could prove to be incredibly useful in the maintenance of bridges. This patent will hopefully lead to more accurate data that takes less time to collect. 

“The reliable and easy-to-interpret data collected by the smart bearing provides bridge designers and bridge owners with vital information that can significantly improve the quality of their assessment of the safety of bridge structures,” Zaghi said in an interview with UConn Today. “The data also helps them identify overweight vehicles that are traditionally a major source of damage to bridges.”

As explained in the patent, this information is so important because it can help reduce the amount of money spent on infrastructure. 

“Due to financial constraints, there is a major push for new, innovative solutions to reduce design, construction, maintenance, repair and logistical costs for infrastructure projects,” reads the patent. 

As reported in The Connecticut Mirror, 308 of the 4,702 bridges in Connecticut were found to be structurally deficient in 2018.

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“You don’t commute in 40-year-old cars. The ones today are entirely different. But our infrastructure is similar to the way we were doing it 40 to 50 years ago.”
— Arash Zaghi during a WNPR interview

Zaghi also has a patent for a reinforced structural column system to help increase the lifespan of bridges, and has worked with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to develop new kinds of concrete. He explained concrete could benefit from some innovation. 

“Regular concrete was developed a thousand years ago,” Zaghi said in an interview with WNPR. “It was not developed to be a super material. It was a material that was gradually improved and the stuff they use today is a lot better than what they used 50 years ago.”

In fact, a lot of Zaghi’s work is focused on updating old infrastructure techniques. 

“You don’t commute in 40-year-old cars,” Zaghi said in an interview with WNPR. “The ones today are entirely different. But our infrastructure is similar to the way we were doing it 40 to 50 years ago.”

More information about Zhagi’s research can be found at zaghi.engr.uconn.edu.

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Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at grace.mcfadden@uconn.edu

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