Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

The Magazine Of Queen's University

2019 Issue 3

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Campus and community: Concrete ideas for the future

Campus and community: Concrete ideas for the future

[photo of the new moving load simulator moving across a strip of concrete]
Matt Mills

The Moving Load Simulator drives back and forth over a strip of test material, recreating the forces borne by a bridge.

In July, Queen’s researcher Amir Fam and his team unveiled a cutting-edge moving load simulator featuring new technology designed to test the structural integrity of bridge materials and and designs.

The system simulates the forces borne by a bridge from vehicle traffic. It collects data that are then analyzed by engineers to assess the performance of all aspects of the bridge structure, including the deck, girders, and joints.

“This equipment here at Queen’s is remarkably unique,” says Dr. Fam, Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science and Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies). “We wanted to take the lead in understanding bridges under full-scale moving loads by creating testing infrastructure that was innovative and new.”

The $4.2 million in funding to design and build the simulator – the first of its kind in Canada – and other support infrastructure was provided by the Canada Foundation for innovation (CFI), the ontario research Fund, and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, with additional in-kind contributions.

“The important research enabled by the moving load simulator will save lives and reduce costs,” says Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO of CFI. “Aging infrastructure in bridges across North America can be a serious issue of safety and security.  The ability to study simultaneously both load and motion will be key to building better bridges in the uture and to knowing today which bridges should require load limits.”

Traditionally, bridge materials are tested using a pulsating technique that sees a large hammer-like instrument pounding the material repeatedly in the same spot. But in reality, says Dr. Fam, this isn’t how bridges are used in the real world. By driving back and forth over the test material, the simulator recreates the forces bridges undergo every day and over a long period of time.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is one of the first partners to use the load simulator to test bridges in Ontario. As well as testing existing structures, the technology will also contribute to more design efficiencies. and, says Dr. Fam, the moving load simulator will be made available for Queen’s student research projects as well.

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 3-2018]