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Sensor Gives Faster Soil Erosion Test on Structures

Flooded New Orleans (NOAA)

A flooded New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005 (NOAA)

Researchers from North Carolina State University in Raleigh have developed a sensor that allows engineers to assess the scour potential of soils at various depths and on-site. This technology, for the first time, can help evaluate the safety of civil infrastructure before and after storm events.

Called the “in situ scour evaluation probe,” the sensor enables technicians and engineers in the field to measure the scour potential of soils without taking samples back to a lab for processing. The new probe uses a water jet to burrow a hole into the soil. Operators can then track the rate at which the water displaces the soil to determine the scour rate. As a research tool, the device can also vary the velocity and flow rate of the water to simulate natural events, from normal stream flow to hurricane-induced surges.

Scour, or erosion of soil around structures due to water flow, is responsible for a wide range of critical infrastructure failures, from unstable bridges to the levees in Louisiana that gave way in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Scour has also been linked to approximately 60 percent of the bridge failures in the United States, as documented by the Federal Highway Administration.

Related: Sensors Developed to Measure Flood Damage to Bridges

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