Missouri S&T Smart Composite Bridge



Features of the Missouri S&T Smart Composite Bridge:

  • All Composite Design for High Performance
  • Composite Tube Construction for Economy
  • Fiber Optical Sensors for Smart Monitoring

For information contact: Steve E. Watkins

Executive Summary:



A prototype bridge, the first fully-composite bridge in Missouri, was designed, analyzed, and manufactured as a cooperative product-development by an interdisciplinary faculty team (see Personnel) at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and a host of industry and government organizations. The bridge is a long-term technological demonstration for industry and a field laboratory for students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T). It demonstrates the use of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) composites for civil applications and is a field laboratory for the interdisciplinary course "Smart Materials and Sensors and incorporates several educational resources. The bridge was installed in the Summer of 2000 (See Photographs). It is located in the library park of the Missouri S&T campus and spans over 9 meters with an I-beam-type structural element formed by seven layers of bonded tubes. The bridge is designed to AASHTO HS20 highway standards, although its normal usage at Missouri S&T will be for pedestrian and light vehicular traffic. Fiber optic strain and temperature sensors are incorporated into the structure and monitored via a dedicated fiber optic data line to the Applied Optics Laboratory. The bridge was subject to analytical studies (e.g. finite element modeling) and to tests of foot traffic and vehicle loading.


See Overview for more details, including video documentation, technical papers, and theses. Other papers and software realating to the project and class are given in educational resources. A Live View is also available.

The Smart Composite Bridge Project was the recipient of the Rolla Community Award for Excellence in Engineering Design for 2000.


Manufacturing Partner:

  • Composite Products, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri (John F. Unser, President)

Funding Partners in the project:


Supporters of the project:

  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers, Local Union #396, St. Louis, MO (crane and labor for installation)
  • Luna Innovations, Inc. , Blacksburg, VA (suppliers of fiber optic strain instrumentation)
  • John Belk (donation of Radio Frequency Identification Tags -" RFID tags)
  • Boeing , St. Louis, MO (loan of RFID tag reader)
  • Zoltek , St. Louis, MO (donation of carbon for tubes and rods)
  • Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (soybean-based resin for pultruded railing elements)
  • Dow Chemicals (donation of resin for carbon tubes)
  • Fiber Glass Industries (donation of fiberglass mat for carbon tubes)
  • Albemarle Corporation (donation of flame retardant for carbon tubes)
  • Vetrotex America (donation of fiberglass roving for glass tubes)
  • Interplastic Corporation (donation of vinyl ester resin)
  • Dexter (donation of adhesive for bonding tubes