ADC Wins Pact to Move Ahead with Concrete Sensors
LANSING – Advanced Design Consulting USA, Inc. (ADC) will spend the next two years developing implanted concrete sensors to monitor the health of bridges and roads.
The Lansing-based engineering and design firm announced the two-year contract for the sensors from the U.S. Department of Transportation in February. The deal is worth about $1 million, says Alexander Deyhim, president of ADC.
ADC has been working on the sensors for several years now. The latest contract aims to have them in production within the next two years.
The company will either build the sensors using its in-house manufacturing facility or license production to an outside company, Deyhim says.
The sensors, which can be implanted in new construction or existing roads, measure temperature, moisture content, cracking, and the presence of the sodium chloride that can weaken concrete's embedded reinforced steel. The system can be installed without a power source and can be read using a simple, hand-held scanner.
The system uses radio-frequency identification - the same technology often used to read security tags in department stores, says Eric Van Every, director of research and operations at ADC.
The idea, Van Every explains, is to eventually mount the readers in vehicles that travel highways regularly, like police cars. As officers are driving, the reader in their cars will automatically download the sensor data as they pass the devices.
"That way, you don't even have to pay anyone else to go out and collect the data," Van Every says.
The data collected from the sensors will help those responsible for maintaining roads take early action to avoid problems.
Currently, concrete is monitored using sound waves. The method does not provide a complete, thorough picture of the material's strength, Deyhim says.
"There's really no good way right now to monitor the health of concrete," he says. "And unfortunately, when something fails, it's usually a catastrophic failure."
An example, Deyhim says, is the 2007 collapse of a bridge section of Interstate 35 in Minnesota.
And while the ADC device can be used to monitor either existing or newly installed concrete, the real driver behind the project is new construction, Van Every says. The first 28 days after new concrete goes down is a critical period, he explains.
How the material cures during that period is a major predictor of how long it will ultimately last, he says.
Initial customers for the sensors will include state and federal transportation departments. The most significant market is construction companies, Deyhim says.
"The potential market is tremendous," he says. "Those companies use concrete everywhere. Not just here, but all over the world."
ADC employs 24 people and generates $4 million to $5 million in sales annually.
The company, founded in 1995, is an engineering, scientific-consulting, and manufacturing firm. It provides devices, integrated systems, and high-precision components and instruments to commercial firms and academic and government institutions throughout the world.
It works in areas like precision robotics, sub-micron positioning systems, and optical subsystems.
ADC has a portfolio of 14 patents and another 10 pending, Deyhim says. The company is based in a 15,000-square-foot facility on Ridge Road in Lansing.