ANSTO uses nuclear science to help conserve our bridge

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21 June 2019

Sydney’s near-on 90-year-old Harbour Bridge will get a 21st century makeover thanks to a new collaboration between ANSTO, Australian universities and NSW Government.

Through the $858,000 3-year project, new laser-based, large-scale cleaning methods will be developed for corroded metal and dirt-encrusted surfaces in inaccessible areas on the bridge.

The technology uses a new class of powerful industrial ultrafast lasers which reduce heat load to a structure, reducing energy costs and deliver long-term conservation outcomes.

The new techniques, which will use robotics, will offer improved safety and economic benefits in building maintenance as well as scrap reduction for the marine, automotive and aircraft industries.

ANSTO will undertake stress assessments to materials using X-rays and nuclear techniques at Lucas Heights.

“This is a big, challenging cleaning job that we are happy to be involved with,” said Dr Jamie Schulz, Leader, Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering.

ANU is leading the project. Their Professor Andrei Rode said this is the first time a laser cleaning process like this has been used on such a large-scale.

 Sydney Harbour Bridge is approaching its 90th Anniversary. Current work involves sandblasting dirt, rust and the existing lead-based paint and applying lead-free paint to protect the structure.

ANSTO’s Dr Anna Paradowska said that ANSTO is well placed to assist with this work.

“In this project, the team will analyse mechanical properties of laser-treated steel and granite for fatigue resistance, roughness, understanding the microstructure, and distribution of stresses.”

Importantly, the new laser techniques will prevent detrimental damage to the cleaned surfaces, such as residual stresses, micro-cracking or roughening that decreases structural performance and surface integrity.

Laser cleaning has been used widely to remove contamination from historic architecture when traditional methods are not viable.

“We are very excited to utilise nuclear science and expertise to help develop technology that will help maintain Sydney Harbour Bridge - an iconic image of Sydney, and Australia itself!” Dr Paradowska said.

Read more

Read more about the bridge-cleaning project on the ANSTO website.

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