The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced nine awards for new research projects to develop advanced sensing technologies that would enable timely and detailed monitoring and inspection of the structural health of bridges, roadways and water systems that comprise a significant component of the nation's public infrastructure. The awards, the first to be made under NIST's new Technology Innovation Program (TIP), initiate up to $88.2 million in new research over the next five years on structure monitoring and inspection technologies, $42.5 million of it potentially funded by TIP.
The new TIP projects target innovative, low-cost and reliable sensors and related technologies that provide quantitative assessments of the structural integrity or degree of deterioration of bridges, roads, water mains and wastewater collection systems. The United States has 1 million miles of water mains, 600,000 bridges and 4 million miles of public roadway, and experts have pointed to serious gaps in the nation's ability to monitor these networks adequately to ensure timely maintenance and repair. Twenty-five percent of U.S. bridges were rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2007, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency reported that there are 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Baltimore, Md., as an example of an older urban area, suffered almost 1,200 water main breaks in 2003. Leakages and breaks in water distribution systems are estimated to waste up to 6 billion gallons of drinking water each day.
Damaged infrastructure also directly affects large numbers of Americans. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that Americans spend $54 billion each year in vehicle repairs caused by poor road conditions.
TIP supports, promotes and accelerates innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need. The merit-based competitive program can fund cost-shared R&D projects by single small-sized or medium-sized businesses and joint ventures that also may include institutions of higher education, non-profit research organizations and national laboratories. TIP awards are limited to no more than $3 million total over three years for a single company project and no more than $9 million total over five years for a joint venture.
For additional details and a list of the nine selected research projects, see "NIST Technology Innovation Program Announces New R&D Projects to Develop Infrastructure Monitoring and Inspection Technologies."