Crack Detectability and Durability of Coaxial Cable Sensors in Reinforced Concrete Bridge Applications

Genda Chen, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Ryan D. McDaniel
Michael A. Brower
David Pommerenke, Missouri University of Science and Technology

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The working mechanism and the measurement principle of topology-based crack sensors made of coaxial cables are briefly reviewed. The sensitivity, spatial resolution, and ruggedness of two coaxial cable sensors, respectively made of rubber and Teflon dielectric materials, were compared and validated with laboratory testing of a 4/5-scale, T-shaped, reinforced concrete beam-column specimen. Two Teflon sensors were installed on one of the solid decks of a three-span continuous highway bridge to investigate their durability and measurement repeatability. Laboratory tests indicated that both types of sensors have high sensitivity, but the Teflon sensor has a higher spatial resolution and a negligible spillover effect of any significant cracks. At a 90-degree bend, however, the Teflon sensor is more susceptible than the rubber sensor to the rubbing action of the outer conductor of a coaxial cable against its dielectric layer. No cracks were observed during the field load tests of the instrumented bridge. Both sensors indicated high durability in realworld application but a certain variation of waveforms was measured over a period of 5 years because of the use of different instruments. Future research is directed to develop an online calibration of crack sensors with a small portion of built-in standard cable at the end of the cable sensor.