Aircraft Technology Makes Bridges Lighter And Cheaper

An engineering firm has just installed a remarkable new bridge, near Bristol, England. But it's not the typical concrete or steel bridge. It's made of light, high-strength composite materials, like those used for the wings of the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.


What are the benefits of using composites in bridge construction? The consulting firm, Atkins says the bridge cost 25 percent less than a traditional bridge. They're just as strong, but lighter, which makes them easy to transport from where they are assembled. In the construction of composites, layers of fibers such as carbon and Kevlar are bound together by using a polymer or resin. Atkins senior consultant James Henderson told Construction Enquirer:

"The strength and lightweight nature of composites have allowed commercial aircraft to fly further, faster and more economically. Having gained this knowledge and expertise, we wanted to see where else the technology could be used to deliver similar benefits. Our initial idea was to look at bridge building, a form of engineering which has largely been using the same methods for centuries."

Because the material is lighter and easier to work with, installation of the bridge takes less time, reducing the need for road closures and detours. Bridge components are pre-fabricated off-siteMaintenance costs are estimated to be 50 percent less, over the lifespan of the bridge, because the composites are more resistant to corrosion. Composites also allow more flexibility in design, letting architects create more interesting designs.

Source: Construction Enquirer

Airbus winglet photo by Joao Carlos Medau on Flickr. Top photo by Atkins Consulting.

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