Highly sensitive sensors for bridge condition monitoring

Dr. Thomas Frasch
Dr. Thomas Frasch, February 2020

Bridges are exposed to all manner of different stresses and strains: Not just wind, sun, rain and huge temperature fluctuations, but also geological changes and the sheer weight – often many tonnes – of the traffic that passes over them every single day, triggering vibrations throughout the entire structure.


In this article, we will look at how sensors can help you to enhance bridge safety and save costs across the entire process – from planning and operation through to monitoring and renovation.

Bridges undoubtedly count among the greatest of architectural challenges and place considerable demands on the expertise of the planners, engineers and trades involved. And it goes without saying that they have to be safe and dependable at all times. Despite state-of-the-art construction methods, the load-bearing capacity, stability and safety of bridges still have to undergo constant monitoring. These checks are highly complex and usually performed during regular, on-site inspections – entailing the risk that any damage in its initial stages as well as hazardous stresses and strains might not be detected until they reach a more advanced stage.

The smart way to instantly detect safety risks

Nowadays, however, in an era of digitalization, numerous easier, safer and more cost-effective methods are available for monitoring the condition of bridges with continuous structural health monitoring. The high-precision MEMS inertial sensors from First Sensor play a key role here. They are characterized by high signal-to-noise ratios, high temperature resistance and minimal cross-sensitivity, making them perfect for use on exposed structures.

Powerful, adaptable, cost-effective

Positioned at all the neuralgic points along the bridge structure, the sensors register vibrations and even the smallest of changes in inclination. Sensor-based systems for the structural health monitoring of bridges offer a range of clear benefits:

  • Continuous monitoring of the entire bridge structure
  • Early detection of material fatigue and structural weaknesses
  • Basis for efficient, condition-based maintenance models
  • Cost savings thanks to reduced repair and renovation work

MEMS inertial sensors can be easily integrated in more comprehensive monitoring infrastructures. If necessary, First Sensor can also make electrical or mechanical adjustments so that the modules meet specialized customer requirements.

presure sensor


The MEMS sensors have a very high signal-to-noise ratio and exceptional temperature stability and can detect even the smallest of changes in position or acceleration.

MEMS inertial sensors are part of an online-based overall solution

A network of sensors forms the basis for bridge monitoring. An online connection to the cloud allows the data gathered to be analyzed quickly and easily. The evaluation can be performed in the control center on a PC or anywhere else on mobile devices.

If critical states in the bridge structure are detected during continuous monitoring, the necessary maintenance measures can be initiated without delay. Compared with conventional plan-based maintenance concepts, sensor-based structural health monitoring and condition-based servicing offer decisive advantages in terms of safety, speed and cost-efficiency.

Valuable findings for bridge construction

Digitalization, structural health monitoring and cloud solutions allow bridge condition data from all over the world to be collected and analyzed. A vast range of influencing factors come into play here – from climatic to geological conditions.


Seniors Condition Monitoring Bridges


The collected data and subsequent analyses offer an invaluable pool of information that can also help to minimize risks during future bridge construction projects, providing engineers with an unprecedented level of insight during the planning stage into the site conditions, earthquakes, storms and temperature fluctuations.

You can learn more about the design, operation and application of MEMS inertial sensors in our webinar:

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In this blog, we write about applications and current topics in sensor technology.


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