Earthquakes can compromise even the strongest columns supporting bridges, but a hybrid sliding-rocking bridge design promises similar strength and quake resistance with joints and segments that can move. The design developed at Texas A&M University is inspired by human limbs and allows different supporting segments to slide over one another rather than crack when a temblor occurs.



Today’s bridge columns are typically formed by large monolithic concrete structures that afford them great strength, but do invite the possibility of cracking should an earthquake strike.

There are other options, including constructing these load-bearing structures out of limb-inspired joints and sections, which a new study suggests could not only offer greater durability under seismic activity, but also be repaired on the cheap should cracks start to appear.

The novel bridge design examined in this research is known as a hybrid sliding-rocking bridge, which engineers at Texas A&M University have been investigating as a more earthquake-resistant alternative to conventional designs.

These columns offer the same support as typical concrete bridge columns but are able to absorb more energy from ground-shaking thanks to moving joints and segments inspired by human limbs. If an earthquake hits, the individual segments slide over one another instead of cracking, at least that’s the idea.