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New Tool for Building and Fixing Roads and Bridges: Artificial Intelligence

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Models of concrete blocks designed by A.I. that use up to 30% less material while providing strength comparable to conventional concrete blocks.

In addition to A.I.’s speed at developing new designs, one of its largest draws in civil engineering is its potential to prevent and detect damage.

Credit: Jared Wickerham/The New York Times

In Pennsylvania, where 13 percent of the bridges have been classified as structurally deficient, engineers are using artificial intelligence to create lighter concrete blocks for new construction. Another project is using A.I. to develop a highway wall that can absorb noise from cars — and some of the greenhouse gas emissions that traffic releases as well.

At a time when the federal allocation of billions of dollars toward infrastructure projects would help with only a fraction of the cost needed to repair or replace the nation's aging bridges, tunnels, buildings and roads, some engineers are looking to A.I. to help build more resilient projects for less money.

"These are structures, with the tools that we have, that save materials, save costs, save everything," said Amir Alavi, an engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the consortium developing the two A.I. projects in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

The potential is enormous. The manufacturing of cement alone makes up at least 8 percent of the world's carbon emissions, and 30 billion tons of concrete are used worldwide each year, so more efficient production of concrete would have immense environmental implications.


From The New York Times

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