Suspension bridges support their roadway with overhanging cables. Modern suspension bridges are stronger, lighter, and aesthetically more pleasing than any other style of bridge, allowing them to span longer distances. They are also some of the most expensive to build. Although suspension bridges can be built to withstand the weight of eight trains, they were almost all created with vehicular traffic in mind.
Deflection theory has been used to calculate how the horizontal deck and curving cables work together to transport weights since the early 20th century. The defection theory, which was first presented in 1888 by the Aᴜsᴛʀɪᴀn academic Josef Melan, explains how the deck and cables deflect together under gravity stresses, leading to a decrease in the needed rigidity of the deck as spans become longer and the suspended structure gets heavier. Engineers were particularly motivated by deflection theory when attempting to reduce the ratio of girder depth to span length in order to achieve a lighter, more graceful appearance without compromising safety.
When pier-supported bridges across water are constructed, the foundations are created by sinking concrete caissons into the riverbed. Large wooden, metal, or concrete boxes or cylinders are called caissons. Towers are constructed on top of the casissons when a suspension bridge is involved. Originally made of stone, today’s suspension bridge towers are either made of steel or concrete. The anchorages are then constructed on both ends, often out of reinforced concrete with steel eyebars incorporated into the concrete to which the cables will be fastened. A length of metal with holes at both ends is called an eyebar.
Early suspension bridge cables were composed of interconnected wrought-iron eyelets; today, however, cables are often made of thousands of soft steel wires spun together on the construction site. Rope pulleys are used for spinning, which transports each wire across the tops of the towers to the opposing anchorage and black. To stop corrosion, the wires are then bundled and coated. The deck is then typically erected by floating deck parts out on hsips, raising them with cranes, and fastening them to the suspenders after the cable are finished.
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