What are the functions of diaphragms in bridges?

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Diaphragm is a member that resists lateral forces and transfers loads to support. Some of the diaphragms are post-tensioned and some contain normal reinforcement. It is needed for lateral stability during erection and for resisting and transferring earthquake loads. Based on past research, diaphragms are ineffective in controlling deflections and reducing member stresses. Moreover, it is commonly accepted that diaphragms aided in the overall distribution of live loads in bridges.

The main function of diaphragms is to provide stiffening effect to deck slab in case bridge webs are not situated directly on top of bearings. Therefore, diaphragms may not be necessary in case bridge bearings are placed directly under the webs because loads in bridge decks can be directly transferred to the bearings. On the other hand, diaphragms also help to improve the load-sharing characteristics of bridges. In fact, diaphragms also contribute to the provision of torsional restraint to the bridge deck.


This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.


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  • zain July 8, 2012 at 4:34 am

    from explanations it seems that diaphragm and shear key have same function to enhance the lateral stability and improved lateral distribution of live loads ?? is it true.?? is there any difference in them ??

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