Building safety breakthrough

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Technology developed in South Yorkshire has been hailed by Business Minister Mark Prisk as one of the big ideas that will bolster Britain’s worldwide reputation for innovation.

The LoadSCAN technology has been developed by StrainSonics, a joint venture involving Sheffield-based Tribosonics and Stressed Structural from Rotherham.

The new innovation measures the stresses and strains in structures ranging from bridges to office blocks and was named by Mr Prisk today as one of the finalists in the Make it in Great Britain Challenge.

Mark Prisk says that although Britain has a great industrial heritage and great talents and skills in design and engineering, there is a perception that the country doesn’t make things any more.

“Make it in Great Britain is a year long campaign to change perceptions and showcase the things that are up and coming,” said Mr Prisk. “We are trying to get a discussion going about how innovation is essential to industry, showcase the very best of ideas and help them become commercialised.”

LoadSCAN and other Make it in Britain finalists have been invited to take part in a special exhibition at the Science Museum to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Measuring stresses is an essential part of ensuring the safety of large structures, which currently involves temporarily attaching strain gauges to different parts of the structure – an expensive, time consuming and complicated process.

Thanks to the work of Dr Phil Harper, from Tribosonics, and Peter Seaman, from Stressed Structural, that process is set to become simpler, cheaper and permanently available. Their hand-held LoadSCAN device gauges stress by generating an ultrasonic signal and measuring the response from tiny, cheap, passive devices permanently embedded in key structural components.

n Tribosonics was established in 2006 to develop technology that uses ultrasound to measure wear and the effects of friction and lubrication in machinery and is now used by Formula 1 teams and in the nuclear, civil engineering, oil and gas industries.

Stressed Structural provides a range of services for the civil engineering sector, including stressing, tensioning and monitoring structural components.

The Rotherham company has worked on developments that include the O2 Arena in Berlin, the main terminal at Doha International Airport and the New York Times building, which has been hailed as the most significant addition to the New York skyline in decades.