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Effect of Transient Thermal Gradient on Stresses in Composite Bridges

Composite steel-concrete bridges experience higher thermally induced stresses than their concrete and steel cousins. These thermal stresses which can result from support restraints, debris accumulating in expansion joints, or from non-uniform thermal gradients, can lead to significant damage in the concrete deck. Conventional heat transfer theory in solids, in three-dimensional finite element formulation, is used to perform a sequentially coupled thermal-stress analysis in a selected single-span case study bridge. Actual environmental boundary conditions for a selected geographical region are used to develop the thermal profile. The vertical thermal gradient is shown to be largely non-linear as opposed to existing models, such as AASHTO. The thermally induced tensile stresses in the concrete are shown to be significant compared to service load stresses and constitute 60% of the tensile strength of the concrete deck.  Manuscript in pdf

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