Theses Doctoral

Experimental and Numerical Investigations of the Thermomechanical Properties of Suspension Bridge Main Cables

Robinson, Jumari

As crucial infrastructure systems remain in service up to and beyond their originally intended service lives, there has been a significant increase in efforts to quantify their current strength and remaining life span. Suspension bridges are of particular concern due to their impact on commerce, low repairability, and high replacement cost. As such, quantification of the performance of suspension bridge main cables at elevated temperatures is necessary for a holistic safety assessment. These cables are the primary load-carrying members, and are susceptible to vehicular fires near the midspan and anchorage where the cable sweeps low to the deck. Due to the dearth of empirical data regarding the thermomechanical properties of main cables, previous studies were forced to rely on thermomechanical properties derived for different materials, geometries, and scales. It is the chief goal of this dissertation to fill this void in high-temperature empirical data. First, the high temperature stress-strain behavior of the constituent ASTM A586 wires is examined.

The coldworked wires are highly susceptible to recovery at elevated temperatures, which has the power to undo the primary strengthening mechanism. Large decreases in elastic modulus, yield stress, and ultimate stress are observed at elevated temperature. The high temperature stress-strain curves are fully parameterized, and a procedure for generating stress-strain curves at temperatures between 22°C and 724°C is provided. Next, the post-fire performance of the wire is quantified. Wires are heated to various temperatures up to 842°C and then allowed to cool before being tensile tested. The results of this testing show that a significant portion of the high-temperature strength-loss observed in the in-situ tests persists after cool-down.

Exposure to elevated temperatures reduces strength and fundamentally alters the shape of the stress-strain curves of the heated and cooled wires. These post-fire stress-strain curves are fully parameterized, and a procedure for recreating them between 22°C and 842°C is provided. Next, the metallurgical underpinnings for the observed changes in mechanical behavior at and after high-temperature exposure are explored using neutron diffraction techniques. Two engineering beamline experiments generate peak-narrowing data that sheds light on the evolving dislocation density and crystallite size in this wire during and after heating. Results confirm that the decreases in wire strength that persist after cool-down are the product of recovery; temperatures in excess of 700°C decrease wire dislocation density to values similar to those of undeformed structural materials. Finally, the thermal conductivity of the main cable is addressed.

The air voids and point contacts between the wires create a complex (and anisotropic) heat transfer situation within main cables. A one-to-one, 8200 kg mock-up of a panel of a suspension bridge main cable is constructed, instrumented, and heated. The data provided by the internal temperature sensors is used to tune the thermal conductivity of a representative finite element via a gradient descent algorithm. The resulting temperature-dependent thermal conductivity function allows the complex internal heat transfer of the main cable to be accurately approximated by a monolithic section with conductivity tuned to the measured behavior of a physical main cable. Cumulatively, the results of these studies shows that the thermomechanical properties of main cables are not well represented by previous approximations that are based on other materials and applications. The properties derived herein will facilitate more accurate performance estimates of suspension bridges subjected to fires than previously possible.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Thesis Advisors
Betti, Raimondo
Brugger, Adrian
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 28, 2022