World’s first bridge with glass columns strong enough to hold student party

Glass is an amazing sustainable material that can be recycled endlessly, without degrading. In construction, glass is mostly used for buildings, for instance in windows or façades. Now, students at the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands have created something new: they made a pedestrian bridge supported by glass columns.

Under pressure, glass is incredibly strong, stronger even than concrete, thus an interesting material to experiment with in constructions.

The construction of the bridge with glass columns was initiated by Rob Nijsse, professor in building constructions at the University. The bridge was constructed at the campus of the TU.

Aside from glass columns, the rest of the bridge is build from steel and is covered with a grass mat. While only the columns are made of glass, it is the first time that glass is used in a construction like this. It has many advantages, aside being recyclable. It doesn’t rust or rot, and you don’t have to paint it for it to look beautiful.

The strength of the bridge underwent the ultimate test to see if it was suitable: a student party. The test started out with a few people walking slowly across the bridge, but eventually, many students were partying and marching across the bridge. Tests like these are vital, as marching soldiers put a lot of pressure on pedestrian bridges. Through measuring equipment, the researchers could see that even with a student party, only 50 per cent of the calculated pressure the bridge can handle was reached.

Unfortunately, it is still expensive to use glass in constructions like this. The glass bridge in Delft is about 3 times as expensive as a concrete one. However, if glass is used in more projects, the price will drop, and since the bridge has proven that glass is a great construction material, perhaps more projects will follow.

The next step in this research is to make a bridge entirely made out of glass. PhD students Ate Snijder and Joris Smits designed special S-shaped building blocks. Thanks to their shape, they are held into place without the need for glue or cement. These blocks, which are currently made in Italy, will replace the grass mat, and later the supporting structure will be removed to create the world’s first bridge entirely made of glass.

The bridge was inspired by the movie Thor (2011), in which Thor and Loki fight each other on a glass bridge. The bridge is finally destroyed by Thor’s hammer, which is apparently even more destructive than a student party. Once the bridge is entirely replaced by the glass version, though, the researchers are confident that not even Thor can break it.

Photos: Omroep West