Infrastructure

  • Concrete solutions to aging, structurally deficient bridges

    According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the state leads the nation in the number of bridges classified as “structurally deficient.” This is probably not a surprise to most residents who have done any driving throughout the commonwealth. The state’s more than 25,000 state-owned bridges are aging — their average age is over fifty years — and in need of repair. Penn State civil engineering faculty are researching methods for enhancing the maintenance and durability of civil infrastructure — including anything made of concrete, from bridges to roads to buildings.

  • Wireless sensors keep public infrastructure safe

    European researchers have developed a wireless sensor system to monitor the safety of large infrastructure such as bridges – but also historic monuments. The new system will potentially save lives as the structure ages, and it will reducing construction cost of new infrastructure.

  • Scanning technology detects early signs of potholes

    Researchers are developing smart scanning technology using existing cameras to detect the early signs of potholes and determine their severity. a computer vision algorithm, combined with 2D and 3D scanners on a pavement monitoring vehicle, can examine the road with accuracy at traffic speed during day or night. The system works by detecting different textures of the road to identify raveling and distinguishes it from shadows and blemishes such as tire marks, oil spills, and recent pothole repairs.

  • Bay of Bengal: Rising seas to force 13 million to evacuate to higher grounds

    Within the next thirty years, a substantial area — called the Sundarbans — in the Bay of Bengal will be underwater as a result of climate change-induced rising sea levels. The roughly thirteen million people living in the region, which consists of approximately 200 delta islands in India and Bangladesh, will be forced to abandon their homes, making their displacement the largest exodus in modern history. The migration of eight million Bangladeshis and five million Indians inland will create the largest group of “climate refugees,” challenging social, agricultural, logistical, and governmental structures.

  • More resilient mass transit to improve Chicago emergency evacuation system

    A group of Argonne Lab researchers will be studying methods and creating tools for building more resilient mass transit systems to evacuate major cities under a $2.9 million grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. The project will bring together researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory with Chicago’s Pace Suburban Bus and Metra Commuter Rail Service to investigate ways to improve the detection, analysis, and response to emergencies, and how best to evacuate the city in a major emergency.

  • Coping with fracking-induced earthquakes

    A new study provides a case for increasing transparency and data collection to enable strategies for mitigating the effects of human-induced earthquakes caused by wastewater injection associated with oil and gas production in the United States. The study suggests that it is possible to reduce the hazard of induced seismicity through management of injection activities.

  • The quality of the U.S. groundwater

    About 115 million people — more than one-third of the U.S. population — rely on groundwater for drinking water. As the U.S. population grows, the need for high-quality drinking-water supplies becomes even more urgent. The recently completed USGS’s national summary report of the quality of the Nation’s groundwater is now available online. Nine associated reports (USGS circulars) detail regional-scale assessments of groundwater quality in about thirty of the most heavily used principal aquifers across the United States.

  • U.S. contemplates responses to a cyber-Pearl Harbor attack on critical infrastructure

    Cybersecurity experts often contemplate how U.S. security agencies would react to a cyber-9/11 or a digital Pearl Harbor, in which a computer attack would unplug the power grid, disable communications lines, empty bank accounts, and result in loss of life. “Ultimately, it absolutely could happen,” says one expert. “Yeah, that thought keeps me up at night, in terms of what portion of our critical infrastructure could be really brought to its knees.”

  • Wireless sensors transform real-time monitoring infrastructure

    Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime, are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population. These sensing devices can collect information about the surrounding environment and transmit that information to cloud-based computing systems that store, analyze, and present that information to educators, researchers, and decision-makers. Deployable at massive scales, the technology represents a paradigm shift in how our world is observed and managed.

  • Funding water projects in times of financial uncertainty

    Currently, water projects in California are partly funded with municipal bonds, some of which must be approved by voters. A new analysis produced by Stanford University’s Water in the West Program provides a blueprint for overhauling the way California funds water infrastructure and innovation projects. The analysis recommends small per-usage fee — known as a public goods charge (PGC) — as appropriate way to pay for proper management of resources.

  • Calls for improving safety of oil-carrying trains grow in wake of this week’s accidents

    Oil trains transporting crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Canada to refineries in the Northeast have suffered several derailments in the past few years. The U.S.Department of Transportation(DOT) has since urged rail companies to adopt new train cars which could better survive derailments, and to retrofit current cars by 2017. Still, railway safety advocates say companies need to do more to ensure the safety of their tracks and cars. Two separate oil train accidents this week support their concerns.

  • NASA scientists issue New York City climate change 2015 report

    A new report by NASA and Columbia University researchers details significant future increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level in the New York metropolitan area. The report aims to increase current and future resiliency of the communities, citywide systems, and infrastructure in the New York metropolitan region to a range of climate risks. “Climate change research isn’t just something for the future,” said the NASA scientist who chaired the panel which produced the report. “It’s affecting how key policy decisions are being made now.

  • New gear technology makes wave energy more attractive

    Wave energy has been held back in part because of the cost of electricity generation. The amount of steel and concrete needed in order to produce each MWh has simply been too great to make it into a profitable business. In addition, the power of waves presents a problem with reliability, and because waves vary greatly in height and timing, it is difficult to create a conversion system that functions across the full wave spectrum. Swedish researchers have developed a new wave energy system which generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost, when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.

  • Benefits, costs of hydraulic fracturing

    Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have had a transformative, positive effect on the U.S. economy, producing societal gains that likely outweigh negative impacts to the environment and human health from an economic perspective, according to a new paper. Innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the past decade have fueled a boom in the production of natural gas, as well as oil, from geological formations including deep shales in which hydrocarbon production was previously unprofitable.

  • Obama signs cybersecurity executive order, promotes information-sharing hubs

    President Barack Obama, at last week’s White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, reiterated the need for more companies to collaborate with each other as well as with the federal government to develop cybersecurity solutions that protect consumer privacy while keeping hackers out of network systems.One strategy Obama encouraged in his speech was the creation of information-sharing groups, called hubs, built around vertical industry sectors.