A Digital Twin for the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 7:30 pm
Sam Gunner, M.Eng.
Bristol University, Research Associate


CSTS Zoom Channel ID 912 0723 6181

Market Place, Cirencester GL7


The UK has a problem. Much of its civil infrastructure (bridges, roads, sewers etc.) is now extremely old, and operating well outside its original design brief. Replacing an existing piece of infrastructure is expensive and disruptive, so we must find ways of safely extending its life that fit within today’s austere budgets. To try and overcome these challenges the government has funded a research program called UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities), bringing together thirteen UK universities in a shared effort to understand how novel technology can be used to support infrastructure and city managers.

A technology that is seen as having real potential for assisting infrastructure operation is the ‘Digital Twin’. A Digital Twin is a simulation of a real object or system, that is continually updated to reflect changes in that object. The real object is monitored, and this monitoring data is used to automatically adjust the model. The model can then tell you things about the real object that cannot be directly measured, and so may help predict faults or schedule maintenance. 

In this talk I will present our plans for a Digital Twin for Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge.  Having worked on the suspension bridge for a number of years I have collected a lot of data about it, and this is being used to build accurate finite element models of the structure. I will demonstrate the Clifton Suspension Bridge Dashboard, which we created in a previous project, and is able to display live data of how the bridge is moving in response to loadings. I’ll give a high level overview of the technology involved, and hope to explain how this will be used to build a Digital Twin of this iconic structure.


Sam is an experienced electronic and systems engineering researcher with a history of developing and deploying novel data gathering systems. An earlier career in one of Transport for London’s R&D departments has given Sam considerable insight into how to design robust systems. Since starting at University of Bristol Sam has created a number of distributed and remote data acquisition applications, including a novel structural health monitoring system for the Clifton Suspension Bridge (UK) and a mobility monitoring system for a fleet of e-bikes. Although an electronics engineer, Sam’s focus is not just on the technology, but how it can be used to tackle the problems faced by the world today.

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