Vintage WINES

Researchers have been awarded a £1.4 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to fund research into a monitoring system for ageing infrastructure.

Researchers have been awarded a £1.4 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to fund research into a monitoring system for ageing infrastructure.

Dr Kenichi Soga, Dr Campbell Middleton, Professor Robert Mair and Dr Peter Bennett from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering are part of a team awarded £1.4 million from the EPSRC ‘Wired and Wireless Intelligent Networked Systems’ (WINES) research grant to fund the ‘Smart infrastructure’ project.

One of the greatest challenges facing civil engineers is the stewardship of ageing infrastructure. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the networks of tunnels, pipelines and bridges that lie beneath and above the major cities around the world. Much of this infrastructure was constructed more than half a century ago, and there is widespread evidence of its deterioration.

For example, tunnels, particularly old ones, are prone to being influenced by activities such as adjacent construction, such as piling, deep excavations and other tunnel construction. Excessive leakage and pipe bursts are frequent and usually unanticipated. Importantly, underground structures often cannot be inspected when they are being used by trains or due to other physical constraints.

Little is known of the long-term performance of such infrastructure. These uncertainties and the importance of safety of the public prompted the initiation of recent research projects investigating the prospect of damage detection and decision-making and the use of sensors to mitigate damage. Future monitoring systems are likely to comprise Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) and will be designed around the capabilities of autonomous nodes. Each node in the network will integrate specific sensing capabilities with communication, data processing and power supply.

The project will demonstrate how large numbers of sensors can be integrated into large-scale engineering systems to improve performance and extend the lifetime of infrastructure, while continuously evaluating and managing uncertainties and risks. The University of Cambridge is working with Imperial College London on the project, which comprises an integrated research program to evaluate and develop prototype WSN systems.

The main objective of this proposal is to develop generic/pervasive wireless sensor networks that allow sharing of equipment and communication tools for monitoring of multiple types of infrastructures. Field trials will be carried out with London Underground, Thames Water, Yorkshire Water, Highways Agency and Humber Bridge. Intel Corporation will support the project with hardware for the trials.