Smart Rocks and Wireless Communication System for
Real-Time Scour Monitoring and Mitigation of Bridges

Bridge Landscape
Scour-susceptible Tongji Bridge in Sichuan, China

NY Throughway
New York Thruway (I-90) Bridge over the Schoharie Creek collapsed due to excessive scour

Flooding Bridge
The washed-away center pier of a continuous steel-girder bridge over the Thompson River in North Missouri due to the heavy rainfall on September 22nd, 2010


Genda Chen

Genda Chen, PI

This project is directed by Dr. Genda Chen, P.E., F.ASCE, F.SEI, Professor and Robert W. Abbett Distinguished Chair in Civil Engineering at Missouri S&T (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla), and Associate Director of Mid-America Transportation Center. It is a part of the structural behavior monitoring research direction that Dr. Chen initiated in early 2000, including topics such as the detection and monitoring of cracks, steel yielding/buckling, corrosion, and high temperature.

As a collaborative effort with Drs. David Pommerenke and Rosa Zheng from Electrical Engineering, this project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).


In the U.S., hydraulic forces (scour) are responsible for 58% of over 1,500 bridge collapses in the past 40 years -- a figure that is growing steadily. The number of scour-critical bridges increased from 2% in 1997 to 5% by 2005. Similarly, the number of scour-susceptible bridges over water increased from 29% to 40% over a period of 8 years.

The current monitoring methods provide an incomplete set of mission-critical data for scour evaluation due to unknown scour locations and refilled scour holes, and cannot survive the debris/ice/mud/current environment during a flood event. On the other hand, real-time scour monitoring of bridges is not only critical for maintaining ground transportation services, but is also a safety issue in a time window of hours or days during high flood seasons. For cost effectiveness and robustness, it is desirable to combine the function of scour monitoring with mitigation strategies such as commonly-used riprap or armoring techniques with rocks.


Disclaimer: The views, opinions, findings and conclusions reflected in this website are the responsibility of the project team only and do not represent the official policy or position of the USDOT/RITA or any State or other entity.

© January 2015 Wendy Chen