It goes without saying that structural integrity is of the utmost importance when designing a bridge...
Not only for connecting two landmasses, but they can also serve as distinctive landmarks for years, decades, and in many cases, centuries…
So, what does it take to build a bridge that withstands decades of traffic load, the harshness of weather, and other extreme environmental conditions?
Well, a lot of things…
One of which is it being ‘engineeringly’ sound, one important component is the bridge bearings.
Unfortunately, conventional bridge bearings pose a few challenges for the engineers, and that’s why polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) came to the rescue.
But let us first look at what the job of a bridge bearing is before we jump into why PTFE is one of the chosen materials.
What is a Bridge Bearing?
Bridges have to withstand a large amount of stress daily. And it’s not just traffic loads either. They also go through a lot of expansion and contraction due to temperature changes during the year.
Such incidents cause much stress on the bridge piers and the bridge deck. These parts of the structure need a break, too. That break is provided by the presence of bridge bearings.
A bridge bearing is a surface present between the piers and the deck that allows the movement of these structures to be controlled. In other words, a bridge bearing prolongs the life of a bridge.
Disadvantages of Conventional Bridge Bearings
Years ago, a bridge bearing was simply of a couple of plates that were placed on top of one another which were driven into action by mechanical forces.
Several kinds of mechanical bridge bearings still exist, for example, rocker bearing, roller bearing, and pinned bearing.
While they all have their unique advantages, a common challenge with these old-style bearings is that they are all subject to environmental wear and tear. With time, the friction generated on these surfaces was detrimental to the health of the bridge.
They needed more frequent maintenance and replacement, and if this didn’t happen it posed a threat to the bridges structural integrity and whoever was using it.
How PTFE Addressed the Challenge…
In modern bridges, many engineers prefer the use of PTFE as the material used to coat the sliding surface of the bridge bearings.
PTFE is already known to have high thermal resistance, which means that the frequent heating and cooling of the bridge structure has little effect on the bridge bearings.
Also, other movements caused by environmental elements (such as an earthquake) fail to deter the self-lubricating nature of the PTFE coated bearings.
Also, friction on the bearings is decreased because of PTFE’s non-stick properties, regardless of external conditions.
All these properties help the bridge bearings last longer, which of course reduced maintenance and replacement costs.
Another great feature is that PTFE-based bearings are also a breeze to design, considering PTFE can be molded and fabricated into shape easily compared to other conventional materials.
Bridges to Behold
So there you have it. Another use case for PTFE that, chances are, the public is unaware of.
And one that’s more important than you think because bridges are an important part of human lives because they help us, as social animals reduce the distance among ourselves and connect.
Not to mention Bridges are also a sight to behold when designed well…
There is just so much an architect can do with the design of bridges. No wonder some of the famous names among bridges worldwide are such well-maintained tourist attractions.
So now, when you look at a bridge again and wonder at its massive task of controlling the traffic moving on it, you will secretly know that it all comes down to well-thought-out and carefully designed bridge bearings, probably made of PTFE-coated sliding surfaces.
If you would like to know more about how Product Release could help your industry, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts, who can discuss your problem and recommend an innovative solution that will not only help you now but will minimise future damage or repairs, giving you peace of mind.