Quasi-self-powered piezo-floating-gate sensing technology for continuous monitoring of large-scale bridges

Kenji Aono, Hassene Hasni, Owen Pochettino, Nizar Lajnef, Shantanu Chakrabartty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Developing a practical framework for long-term structural health monitoring (SHM) of large structures, such as a suspension bridge, poses several major challenges. The next generation of bridge SHM technology needs to continuously monitor conditions and issue early warnings prior to costly repair or catastrophic failures. Additionally, the technology has to interpret effects of rare, high-impact events like earthquakes or hurricanes. The development of this technology has become an even higher priority due to the fact that many of the world’s bridges are reaching the end of their designed service lives. Current battery-powered wireless SHM methods use periodic sampling with relatively long sleep-cycles to increase a sensor’s operational life. However, long sleep-cycles make the technology vulnerable to missing or misinterpreting the effect of a rare event. To address these practical issues, we present a novel quasi-self-powered sensing solution for long-term and cost-effective monitoring of large-scale bridges. The approach we propose combines our previously reported and validated self-powered Piezo-Floating-Gate (PFG) sensor in conjunction with an ultra-low-power, long-range wireless interface. The physics behind the PFG’s operation enable it to continuously capture and store local, cumulative information regarding dynamic loading conditions of the bridge in non-volatile memory. Using extensive numerical and laboratory studies, we demonstrate the capabilities of the PFG sensor for predicting structural conditions. We then present a system level design that adapts PFG sensing for SHM in bridges. A challenging aspect of SHM in large-scale bridges is the need for long-range wireless interrogation, as many portions of the structure are not easily accessible for continual inspection and portions of the bridge cannot be frequently taken out-of-service. We show that by combining self-powered PFG sensors with a small battery and optimized long-range active wireless interface, we can realize a quasi-self-powered system that easily achieves a continuous operating lifespan in excess of 20 years. The efficiency and feasibility of the proposed method is verified in a case study of the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, the longest suspension bridge across anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. Associated data from the deployment are discussed, in addition to limitations, challenges, and additional considerations for widespread field deployment of the proposed SHM framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalFrontiers in Built Environment
StatePublished - Jan 18 2019


  • Energy harvesting
  • Machine learning
  • Mackinac bridge
  • Piezo-floating-gate
  • Quasi-self-powered sensing
  • Structural health monitoring


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