Application of Topological Optimization to Bridge Design

Recently, structural optimization has become an important tool for structural designers, because it allows a better exploitation of material, thus decreasing a structure’s self-weight and saving material costs. Moreover, structural optimization helps the designer to find innovative design solutions and structural forms that not only better exploit material but also give the structure greater aesthetic value from an architectural point of view. In this article, the seismic retrofitting of a bridge originally designed in reinforced concrete is illustrated, showing how lightening the bridge superstructure, rather than reinforcing the already completed foundations and abutments, allowed these latter features to resist greater seismic actions as required in the recent update of the Italian seismic code. Therefore, besides using the steel-concrete composite typology, the bridge superstructure was lightened through structural optimization. After having optimized the thickness of webs and flanges, it was necessary to further lighten the bridge superstructure by removing unexploited material from the bottom flange through the insertion of large cavities. For this purpose, topology optimization is shown to be a powerful tool that allowed the designer to find that the hole shape was basically elliptic, thus suggesting their regularization as ellipses. Comparisons were made between several design solutions, each characterized by a specific volume reduction of the bottom flange. Identification of the highest-performing solutions through computer-aided procedures led to a weight reduction of 40% with respect to the design solution in reinforced concrete. Retrofitting the already existing foundations and abutments to satisfy the updated provisions of the new seismic code was thus avoided by defining an innovative layout of arch bridges with holes in the bottom flange, which has never been used before.


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  • Accession Number: 01493520
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Jul 11 2013 4:36PM