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From the Publisher
August 29, 2015   
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How many bridges have you crossed in your life? Have you ever wondered if that bridge you drive over to get to work every day is 100 percent safe? It might seem that in this age of high tech, building and operating a bridge is a simple matter. But that’s not always the case.

Engineers from the southern Polish city of Cracow have designed an innovative system for monitoring the safety of bridges. The new system, developed by Cracow-based engineering company NeoStrain with the help of experts from technical universities in Warsaw, Cracow, Wrocław and Gdańsk, also collects data on traffic and vehicle loads. It helps plan bridge repairs to make sure they are completed early enough to avoid more costly renovation work later. The system uses special sensors that keep tabs on the technical condition of bridges, strain and other parameters measuring their safety for users. Special devices are installed to identify vehicle license plates and send data to inspectors via GPS about drivers damaging roads.

This “hybrid” monitoring system also weighs vehicles traveling on bridges. Sensors measure how the bridge sags under their weight, how it performs and what kind of impact this can have on the future stability of the structure. It is also possible to determine if vehicles are overloaded. A license plate identification system instantly sends information to road inspectors, which means every overloaded vehicle crossing the bridge is identified immediately. “Overloaded vehicles damage roads. And a damaged road becomes badly profiled and begins to pose a threat in the event of an accident,” says Adam Komosa, the project’s manager.

In another innovative project, engineers from the Institute of Special Techniques and Technologies in Warsaw are preparing a mobile installation that will process sawmill waste into biomass in order to produce liquid fuel and energy for heating.

More than a quarter of all timber processed by sawmills ends up as waste. The invention is intended for sawmills interested in creating their own local energy centers and becoming independent of big electricity providers, says the Institute of Special Techniques and Technologies’ Roman Okniński, who manages the project.

The installation relies on the process of pyrolysis, or thermal decomposition of biomass. Sawmills need heat for drying timber, and they need electricity to power all the equipment they use.

The Institute of Special Techniques and Technologies is working together with the Industrial Chemistry Research Institute in Warsaw, which is responsible for the chemical part of the project, and the Warsaw-based Tele and Radio Research Institute, which oversees energy and automation. After upgrading the installation, the engineers plan to sell it to sawmills together with biomass processing technology.
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