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Structural Health Monitoring

Structural health monitoring is the process of implementing a damage detection strategy by monitoring changes in the material and geometric properties of civil, aerospace and mechanical infrastructure. Structural health monitoring has many advantages.

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Structural health monitoring.....

The owners of a structure have little information about the real condition of the materials, the real loads on the structure and its ageing.

When making decisions, owners have no choice but to assume the worst in order to keep the structure on the safe side.

Monitoring allows the owner to make informed decisions based on factual data.

By reducing the uncertainty associated with the insured risk, it can also reduce the cost of insurance. 

 .....reduces uncertainties 

 .....discovers hidden structural reserves 

Most structures are in far better condition than expected.

When taking advantage of over-design, better material properties, and synergetic effect it is possible to extend the lifetime or load-bearing capacity of a structure safely without any intervention.

By doing this, the repair and replacement costs can be delayed.  

 .....discovers deficiencies in time and increases safety 

Some deficiencies cannot be found by visual inspection or modelling.

In these cases, it is important to undertake appropriate remedial or preventive actions before it gets worse.

Repairing such a deficiency will be much cheaper and will cause less disruption to the use of the structure if it is done at the right time.

Monitoring a structure gives permanent and reliable data to improve the safety of the structure and its users.  

 .....ensures long-term quality 

Monitoring a structure provides continuous and quantitative data which helps in evaluating the quality of the structure during construction, operation, maintenance, and repair, thus eliminating the hidden costs of non-quality.

Many of the damages and defects to a structure are build in during the process of construction.

However, many of them will not be visible till years later, when repair is no longer covered by the contractor’s warranty. This makes repair much more expensive.  

Monitoring data can increase the quality of decisions by providing reliable and unbiased information, therefore allowing owners to spend on maintenance and reconstruction when required and not only when budget allows it.

.....allows structural management 

.....increases knowledge 

Knowing how a structure performs in real conditions, will lead to performance-based designs in the future.

This will bring about structures with increased reliability and performance, which are also cheaper, safer, and more durable.

Investing in monitoring will lead to savings later in the project by discovering weaknesses in time and optimizing the design. 

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Project: Genoa bridge

We all remember 14 August 2018, the day the bridge in Genoa tragically collapsed because it was structurally unable to withstand the weight of today's traffic. Due to the daily importance of the bridge, it was clear that a new bridge would have to be built quickly. The designers of the bridge immediately decided to use some form of structural health monitoring to ensure safety.


Renzo Piano designed the new bridge as a gift to his home town. Local companies managed to build the bridge in a very short time.  This was necessary because the Genoa Bridge has a huge economic value as it is part of the main traffic routes of northern Italy. It not only links Genoa to Milan, but also Italy to France.


On 28 April 2020, the final section of the new bridge was put in place. The bridge has been named Ponte San Giorgio, after Saint George, one of the patron saints of Genoa. According to engineer Tartaglia, the bridge will be "the safest and most controlled bridge in Europe". And Somni could play an important role in that surveillance!


Somni has fitted each pier and pier foundation of the bridge with two highly sensitive inclinometers that monitor the misalignment of the pier day and night. In this way, both the foundation of each pylon and the pylons themselves are monitored for settlement, traffic loads, wind and temperature, and any other conditions that could affect the health of the structure.


The main reason for choosing fiber optic sensors in this application is the very high reliability of these sensors and their unmatched lifetime. Electrical sensors and the electrical cables required for the sensors are known to be much more fragile than fiber and fiber optic sensors. The decision to use only fiber optic cables, connectors and sensors in all hard-to-reach places was therefore a quick one.

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Somni Corporation bv

Rotterdamseweg 183C

2629 HD Delft

The Netherlands

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