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AI to Tackle Jetty and Port Corrosion Across Western Australia

A team of researchers led by Curtin University have joined forces to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to improve the maintenance of marine structures such as jetties and ports impacted by corrosion.

The joint project, led by the Curtin Corrosion Centre, has received funding from SmartCrete CRC to deploy the new monitoring tool and to look at better ways to repair ageing marine structures built with commonly used engineering materials such as reinforced concrete.

Lead researcher Dr Mobin Salasi, from the Curtin Corrosion Centre, noted that marine structures commonly corrode due to their exposure to harsh conditions, including the salt water ‘splash zone’ where the movement of water plus high levels of oxygen and chlorides induce the perfect corrosive environment.

Dr Salasi said that every year, 30 billion tonnes of concrete are used for construction, and some of the structures are subject to harsh conditions, such as the ocean, which can have a significant impact on their strength and capability to last.

The cost of corrosion-related infrastructure in Australia is currently estimated to be $8 billion and can lead to loss of functionality, high maintenance costs, and in rare extreme situations, catastrophic failures causing injuries. All of these factors mean regular inspections and maintenance are important preventative measures.

This project aims to address the problem from two fronts – monitoring and repair. Concrete corrosion is a complex multifactorial phenomenon, so the team is developing a new AI-based decision-making tool that will be fed data and images on the marine structures and then the algorithm will produce reports of high-risk areas for the Port authorities, so the maintenance strategies can be scheduled. They will also look at a better repair solution to lengthen the life and extend the inspection interval for these structures.

Professor Mariano Iannuzzi, Director of the Curtin Corrosion Centre, remarked that this was an exciting opportunity for researchers from multiple organisations to come together to find better solutions for a common problem in the construction industry.

Marine structures are an integral part of the shipping and transport industries, and thus it is crucial that these structures are maintained to ensure no other flow-on impacts. In collaboration with Dr Amin Chegenizadeh and Dr Masood Khan from Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, the Centre will tackle the issue by monitoring the structures and addressing any concerns before it is too late, Professor Iannuzzi said.

The team will work together on this innovative and intelligent tool, which will lead to cost savings in the long term, while also helping to reduce the environmental impact caused by these corroded structures.

The partnership is built upon an existing project involving the Curtin Corrosion Centre and Fremantle Ports and the alliance agreement with the Corrosion Centre at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. The research will assist Fremantle Port Authority and Southern Ports in proactively monitoring corrosion of ageing infrastructure and exploring the suitability of maintenance tools and products. Monitoring novel concrete chemistries will be assessed as part of this project supported by Parchem Construction Supplies.

The collaborative project also includes researchers from Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Macquarie University, and Qatar Environment and Energy Institute at Hamad bin Khalifa University.

The project will rely on the expertise from Curtin’s partnership with a leading global technology company and will also deploy students from Innovation Central Perth’s talent pool to support sensor fusion, dashboard development and development of an AI tool to support predictive maintenance.

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