University of Ottawa
Engineers who work on bridges must carefully consider the power of nature so they can build structures designed to withstand the impacts of scouring—the process where water flow erodes the sediment supporting the foundation of bridge piers. Up to 60 percent of bridge failures are due to processes involving river hydraulics, including pier scour.
Until now, there has been no research into pier scour at narrow channels, where bridges are usually built and waters are often more turbulent. But that will change, thanks to the work of University of Ottawa graduate student Jim Ly, winner of a master’s level 2011 NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prize.
Bridges are frequently built in locations where water flow is accelerating upstream of the bridge. This channel constriction alone can induce scour, compounding local scour at the bridge pier. The complex factors and materials that affect the erosion process make scouring difficult to study in the lab and field. Ly will develop the first numerical model to predict pier scour patterns over time using three-dimensional software. It will be based on a scale model developed at the Hydraulics Laboratory at the University of Ottawa and data from the field.
By better understanding the complex bridge scour process in a narrowing channel, it will be easier to predict and reduce future bridge failures.