U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This fact sheet is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-046    Date:  July 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-046
Date: July 2017


Logo. The Exploratory Advanced Research Program’s logo of a highway under a bridge—representing building, maintaining, and managing future highways.

The Exploratory Advanced Research Program

Adaptive Highway Bridge Bearings Towards Intelligent Infrastructure Systems Towards Intelligent Infrastructure Systems


Exploratory Advanced Research…Next Generation Transportation Solutions

PDF Version (434 KB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®


Photograph shows a view from below a highway bridge spanning a body of water. Two separate roadways merge into a single span at the center of the image
© 2017 Patrick Zickler.

Is it possible for a bridge to “feel” changes in loading caused by traffic or the environment and respond by redistributing loads throughout the structure? Answering this intriguing question is the goal of research supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program. The project, “Self-Sensing Adaptive Material for a New Generation of Multifunctional Bridge-Bearing Systems,” is part of a 3-year EAR Program-funded inquiry into developing responsive smart materials for bridge components. The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), is conducting the research under the EAR Program.

Smart Materials That Respond to Changing Conditions

According to the FHWA, more than 30 percent of the Nation’s 600,000 bridges have exceeded their 50-year theoretical design life.1 One significant component of the day-to-day deterioration of bridges is vibration caused by traffic and wind. Conventional passive bearings can suppress vibration and help mitigate vibration-induced deterioration, but they perform with a predetermined stiffness. Bridge bearings that incorporate adaptive materials can regulate their stiffness and damping properties in response to loading information received from the bridge that they support. “Smart bearings can tune themselves in real time to accommodate dynamic loading conditions,” says Sheila Duwadi of FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure Research and Development. “Incorporating adaptive materials can enhance structural performance, extending bridge service life.”

FHWA-HRT-17-046 PDF Cover Image




Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101