Crack detection using a passive wireless strain sensor

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Lantz, Gabriel Antoine
Wang, Yang
Leon, Roberto T.
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Nearly one third of the 604,426 bridges in the United-States are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Monitoring these bridges is essential to avoid catastrophic accidents. In steel bridges fatigue induced crack/rupture, which is one of the most common modes of failure, can be avoided if the crack is detected at the early stages of its formation. Cracks usually originate at stress concentration areas but their precise origin is random. Such strain concentration can be monitored with traditional strain gages, but their installation requires lengthy wires and equipment, which are expensive and labor intensive. Therefore wireless sensors are being developed to cope with these problems. In this work, a passive wireless strain sensor based on RFID technology is described. The sensor is a patch antenna that resonates at a certain frequency, which shifts in presence of strain. The relation between the resonance frequency and the strain is approximately linear. The slope of the relation is called sensitivity. The behavior of the sensor's sensitivity is studied using experimental work and simulations that couple electromagnetism and mechanics. The sensitivity measured in experiments and in simulations in presence of uniform strain is different. This difference is lower for the sensitivity in presence of a crack, probably due to a parameter variation that is currently not accurately modeled in the simulations.
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