Since that time, federal stimulus funds have made it possible for communities to repair some infrastructure, but the field of high-tech, affordable methods for the continual monitoring of structures remains in its infancy. Instead, most evaluation of bridges, dams, schools and other structures is still done by visual inspection, which is slow, expensive, cumbersome and in some cases, dangerous.
Civil engineers at MIT working with physicists at the University of Potsdam in Germany recently proposed a new method for the electronic, continual monitoring of structures. In papers appearing in Structural Control Health Monitoring (December 2010) and the Journal of Materials Chemistry (April 2011) the researchers describe how a flexible skin-like fabric with electrical properties could be adhered to areas of structures where cracks are likely to appear, such as the underside of a bridge, and detect cracks when they occur.
Installing this “sensing skin” would be as simple as gluing it to the surface of a structure in the length and width required. The rectangular patches in the skin could be prepared in a matrix appropriate for detecting the type of crack likely to form in a particular part of a structure. A sensing skin formed of diagonal square patches (3.25 inches by 3.25 inches, for instance) would be best at detecting cracks caused by shear, the movement in different directions of stacked layers. Horizontal patches would best detect the cracks caused when a horizontal beam sags. The largest patch tested using the prototype reached up to 8 inches by 4 inches in size.
The formation of a crack would cause a tiny movement in the concrete under the patch, which would cause a change in the capacitance (the energy it is storing) of the sensing skin. Once daily, a computer system attached to the sensing skin would send a current to measure the capacitance of each patch and detect any difference among neighboring patches. In this way, it would detect the flaw within 24 hours and know its exact location, a task that has proved difficult for other types of sensors proposed or already in use, which tend to rely on detecting global changes in the entire structure using a few strategically placed sensors.
“The sensing skin has the remarkable advantage of being able to both sense a change in the general performance of the structure and also know the damage location at a pre-defined level of precision,” said Simon Laflamme Ph.D. ’11, who did this research as a graduate student in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). “Such automation in the health monitoring process could result in great cost savings and more sustainable infrastructures, as their lifespan would be significantly increased as a result of timely repairs and reduced number of inspections.” Laflamme, worked with Professor Jerome Connor of MIT CEE and University of Potsdam researcher Guggi Kofod and graduate student Matthias Kollosche.
The researchers originally tested their idea using a commercially available, inexpensive stretchy silicon fabric with silver electrodes. While this worked in some of the lab experiments performed on both small and large concrete beams under stress, the material showed limitations in its installation because it was too thin and flexible for this use. The researchers have now developed a prototype of a sensing skin made of soft stretchy thermoplastic elastomer mixed with titanium dioxide that is highly sensitive to cracks, with painted patches of black carbon that measure the change in the electrical charge of the skin. A patent for the sensing method was filed in March 2010.
“Many of the types of infrastructures graded by the ASCE are made of concrete and could benefit from a new monitoring system like the sensing skin, including bridges which received a C grade, and dams and schools, which earned Ds,” said Connor. “The safety of civil infrastructures would be greatly improved by having more detailed real-time information on structural health.”
The work of Kofod and Kollosche was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
Denise Brehm | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy