NDT Applications for the Assessment of Asphalt Pavements, Plate Thickness, and Steel-Grout Coupling
Wu, Yen Chieh
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Nondestructive testing (NDT) uses different wave propagation modes to evaluate the internal structure of materials, revealing internal damage such as corrosion and fracturing that cannot be detected by traditional methods. Civil infrastructures are considered high priority assets in Ontario and Canada because of their value, high consequence of failure, and the continual influence of aging effects. Unexpected failure of infrastructure not only costs more than planned replacements but also results in increased safety risks. The in-situ condition assessment of civil infrastructure is critical for the successful implementation of maintenance and safety programs. Therefore, reliable nondestructive methods of inspection are required for the implementation of economical and efficient maintenance and asset management programs. Continuing technological developments in data collection, acquisition equipment, and data processing techniques have provided useful applications of nondestructive methods in many engineering fields. Among the many applications, this research study examines three applications of nondestructive testing in civil engineering: (1) condition assessment of construction joints in asphalt pavements, (2) average thickness evaluation of steel pipes, and (3) void and debonding detection in grouted steel tanks. The study on asphalt focuses on the improvement of the coupling system between the transducers and the asphalt surface, and the development of a new data processing technique to reduce user input and increase the reliability of the condition assessment of longitudinal joints. The current wavelet transmission coefficient (WTC) method requires user input, making the automatic data processing difficult. In the WTC method, the coupling between the transducers and the asphalt surface requires the use of epoxy and aluminum plates. This procedure is not practical for testing in-service roads. A new coupling mechanism using polyurethane foam to provide a spring action on the transducers and calibrated weights to generate a compression force was developed and showed good results, reducing the testing time by up to 50%. A new and robust data analysis methodology, called instantaneous transmission coefficient (ITC), is proposed based on measured instantaneous frequencies and damping ratios. The main advantage of the ITC procedure is that it can be performed automatically, reducing user input. A laboratory scale asphalt slab is used to evaluate the new methodology. Results show good agreement between the WTC and ITC measurements for both jointed and joint-free areas. The second study investigates the feasibility of the multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW) technique for the evaluation of the average wall thickness of steel pipes. Electromagnetic NDT methods, such as the eddy current and the remote field testing, are common tools for thickness measurement of conductive materials. However, these methods give only localized results where measurements are made, making the process time consuming and inaccurate for assessing the full cross-sectional area of the pipe. Lamb waves have been used previously in the evaluation of steel pipes; however, the existing techniques require prior calibration to a theoretical wave mode, and their accuracy decreases with the length of the pipe evaluated due to wave attenuation effects. Preliminary results show the capability of the MASW test for providing reliable thickness information. The measured dispersion curves include information of fundamental modes and the higher modes, providing an improved characterization of the medium. Thicknesses between 3.2 mm and 12.7 mm are tested with an error of less than 2%. The third study explores the detection of voids in a steel tank filled with lightweight grout. A joint analysis of surface waves and Lamb waves is used for void detection and the identification of debonding conditions in a laboratory scale model of a steel tank filled with grout. Different configurations of the MASW method are conducted using an instrumented hammer (large wavelengths, 10 cm < λ < 25 cm) and a 50 kHz piezoelectric transmitter (small wavelengths, 5 cm < λ < 9 cm) as sources. The attenuation coefficient computed from the Fourier spectra of the measured signals indicates that the presence of a void has an effect on the propagation of the wave. The comparison between experimental and theoretical dispersion curves show that mainly Lamb waves are generated during the testing of the steel tank; thus, detecting the debonding conditions between the steel plate and the grout. Lamb modes are used successfully for detecting the presence of a void beneath the steel wall. The laboratory measurements are effective in the detection of the void, showing amplitudes up to 50% higher, likely because the deformation of the wall is attenuated by the grout.