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Researchers at the University of South Carolina are using $4 million in federal grant money to develop a specialized sensor that can detect bridge damage, the school announced Thursday. Paul Ziehl, an associate professor at the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will be the lead researcher on USC’s portion of the project, which is part of an overall effort to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
“Many of our bridges were built 50 years ago, and many of these structures have a life expectancy of 50 years,” Ziehl said. “This project focuses on steel and concrete bridges. What we learn will help us more quickly determine the health of a bridge and the length of time that it can be used.”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has funded a $14 million infrastructure project that combines work being done at the University of Miami, Virginia Tech and USC.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that more than 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are structurally deficient, meaning they need to be monitored or repaired.
Slightly more than 12 percent of South Carolina’s 8,343 bridges are structurally deficient, according the S.C. Department of Transportation.

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