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NETWORKS | ISIS CANADA
ISIS steps up efforts to promote use of
"space-age" polymers and sensors
Canada's global expertise in new construction materials and monitoring
equipment won a further vote of confidence from the Network
of Centres of Excellence in March with news that the ISIS
Canada Research Network would be renewed for another three
Established in 1995, ISIS provides civil engineers with
smarter ways to build, repair and monitor structures using
high-strength, non-corroding, fibre reinforced polymers (FRPs)
and fibre optic sensors (FOSs). The Network has brought together
13 universities, 276 researchers, 92 associated organizations
to collaborate on 36 multidisciplinary demonstration projects.
On March 28, the NCE announced $9.6 million in renewed
funding for the ISIS Canada following an in-depth review of
its scientific accomplishments, future research priorities
and training and knowledge transfer activities. The funding
will take the Network through to the end of its 14-year mandate.
Canada spearheads launch of new discipline
Google the term "civionics" and you
will get nearly 450 hits. Within a year, it will
likely be in the thousands.
Civionics is an emerging new discipline being
promoted by ISIS Canada to describe the interaction
between civil engineering and electronics. Similar
to the way aerospace engineering has developed
avionics, civionics would be able to monitor the
health of civil engineering structures.
The successful integration of intelligent sensing
of innovative structures will allow civil structural
engineers to expand the design envelope by taking
risks to introduce new design concepts, materials
and innovation in civil engineering.
ISIS will spend much of the next three years working with
standards associations and civil engineers to promote the
use of these technologies in structures throughout Canada
and the world.
"Our focus now shifts from the research side to field
projects where we can demonstrate how practical and useful
this research is to real-world structures," says Dr. Aftab
Mufti, President of ISIS and a Professor of civil engineering
at the University of Manitoba. "We also want to work
with Canadian universities to have our research findings included
in the undergraduate curricula of civil engineering programs."
ISIS has won international praise for its expertise in developing
FRP and FOS technologies. FRPs offers many advantages over
conventional steel reinforcements in bridges, dams, pipelines,
buildings and other structures. The material is six-to-ten
times stronger than steel and it is non-corrosive, resulting
in a structure that lasts longer and requires less maintenance.
The technology is currently used in over 50 structures in
Canada, including the Confederation Bridge.
Its other breakthrough technology, FOS, is fueling rapid
advances in the emerging field of structural health monitoring
(SHM). Miniature fibre optic sensors installed in structures
during construction can measure – in real-time –
the effects of stress, wind, precipitation and even temperature.
The research has already led to commercial products, including
two readout instruments and a sensor system component. ISIS
is now looking at developing a wireless equivalent of the
Influencing design, codes and policy
ISIS design manuals are now used by hundreds of engineers
in 34 countries. The Network is also influencing design policy
through its association with Public Works and Government Services
Canada, engineering consultants and bridge design offices
in several city and provincial highway departments across
the country. In addition, ISIS research and demonstration
projects are resulting in upgrades to the Canadian Highway
Bridge Design Code. Internationally, ISIS was instrumental
in helping to form the International Society for Health Monitoring
of Intelligent Infrastructures and the International Institute
for FRP Construction.
"Many Canadians are in key positions in these two societies
and are taking a lead to ensure that our research is discussed
at the international level. Canada is considered a leader
in the use of FRPs, fibre optic sensors and how we monitor
these structures. The whole international community, including
the United States, views us as experts in the field,"
says Dr. Mufti.
Priorities for next three years
As ISIS Canada enters its final phase as an NCE, planning
is underway to establish a new entity, called Civionics Canada
Research Network. ISIS coined the word "civionics"
to explain the application of electronics to civil structures.
As a first step, user manuals for civionics have been prepared
and a SHM Support Centre has been established in Winnipeg
to meet the needs of ISIS researchers. Over time, ISIS hopes
to open support centres in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario,
the Prairies and British Columbia to provide professional
consulting on the installation and use of sensors and other
equipment, as well as data management services.
"We are also creating ISIS associates," adds Dr. Mufti.
"These would be ISIS researchers and former students
who have worked on ISIS projects who could carry on the research
work of these technologies, perhaps moving structural health
monitoring into new areas such as hazard mitigation."
While proud of his Network's research accomplishments over
the past decade, Dr. Mufti says their greatest achievement
has been in training a new generation of engineers who are
open to using new materials and technologies.
"Civil engineers are very conservative by nature when
it comes to embracing new ideas, but here in Canada we're
training a new breed of professional who is more open to using
space-age materials like fibre reinforced polymers and fibre
optic sensors to monitor the health of a structure, right
from the design to its maturity and aging. This will be one
of the NCE's greatest legacies."