Keele researchers help to develop device that could reduce major road disruption

Dr Charles Day, from Keele’s School of Computing and Mathematics, has been invited to a prestigious nationwide artificial intelligence showcase in London to demonstrate a unique new AI programme that he has helped to develop for a new civil engineering device.

Dr Day and his colleagues will visit the Alan Turing Institute in London later this year to showcase the device, which has been designed to provide a new, non-destructive method of testing and monitoring man-made structures - such as reinforced concrete – using some of the latest AI machine learning techniques, and without the need for any physical drilling or excavation.

Structures such as buildings, roads and bridges often include reinforced concrete, which contains a metal reinforcing mesh that over time can become invisibly corroded or damaged by percolating water. Ordinarily, to assess or repair such structures, the concrete itself would need to be drilled into or dug up; an invasive process which can cause major disruption, particularly to road networks.

The AI software enhancements for the new device, which was developed with Keele colleagues Emeritus Professor Peter Haycock, Keele’s Dr Adam Wootton, and Dr John Butcher of Aston University, mean that it can simply be rolled over large areas of concrete and scan below the surface to assess the integrity of the metal substructure in real-time, without the need for invasive or destructive testing.

Dr Day said: “The civil engineering benefits of exploiting these techniques for more efficient maintenance of the built environment are obvious. Less obvious are the benefits to the natural environment of avoiding unnecessary traffic flow disruption and excess vehicle emissions that arise from slow-moving or jammed traffic - a frequent undesirable consequence of the usual invasive maintenance and assessment methods.”

Athena Swan