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The University of Southampton

Research project: EP/R039178/1: SPINE: Resilience-Based Design of Biologically Inspired Columns for Next-Generation Accelerated Bridge Construction

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This collaborative project is led by the University of Southampton, and involves a number of industry and academic partners including Fiberline Composites, Jacobs Engineering, and University of Bristol. The aim of this research is to construct the scientific base for a new and transformative resilience-based bridge design and construction, using a new composite column, which is inspired by the mechanics of human spine. The new bridge pier will be (a) manufactured off-site and assembled on the construction site, (b) demountable, (c) constructed using low-carbon composite materials, (d) extremely durable against environmental threats, and (e) resilient to dynamic and extreme loadings (e.g. high-speed trains and seismic loading).

The new approach employs post-tensioned multiple rocking blocks with thin layers of composite materials in between within the bridge pier. As a result, the column will flex and elastically displace due to movement of the deck under static and dynamic loading (geometrically nonlinear) without damage, unlike conventional cast-in-place reinforced concrete columns. The post-tensioning cable provides self-centring mechanism in the column, which re-centres the bridge to its original position after any large lateral displacement; i.e. displacements are recoverable and resilient.

The vertebrae will be constructed using segments of square tubes made of glass fibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP), and filled with advanced fibre-reinforced concrete (FRC). A smart, polymer based, composite material will be developed and used for the intervertebral discs. The intervertebral discs will keep the vertebrae from rubbing against each other, enable the transfer of shear forces through friction, absorb the impact due to the rocking mechanism, and provide mechanical damping under dynamic loading.

Spinal column for next-generation accelerated bridge construction
Spinal column for next-generation accelerated bridge construction
Idealised model in OpenSees
Idealised model in OpenSees

Associated research themes

Research Group: Infrastructure Group

Related research groups

Infrastructure Group
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