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Excitation sources for structural health monitoring of bridges



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Vibration-based damage detection (VBDD) methods are structural health monitoring techniques that utilize changes to the dynamic characteristics of a structure (i.e. its natural frequencies, mode shapes, and damping properties) as indicators of damage. While conceptually simple, considerable research is still required before VBDD methods can be applied reliably to complex structures such as bridges. VBDD methods require reliable estimates of modal parameters (notably natural frequencies and mode shapes) in order to assess changes in the condition of a structure. This thesis presents the results of experimental and numerical studies investigating a number of issues related to the potential use of VBDD techniques in the structural health monitoring of bridges, the primary issue being the influence of the excitation source. Two bridges were investigated as part of this study. One is located on Provincial Highway No. 9 over the Red Deer River south of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. The other is located near the Town of Broadview, Saskatchewan, off Trans-Canada Highway No. 1, 150 km east of the City of Regina. Field tests and numerical simulations were conducted using different types of excitation to evaluate the quality of the modal properties (natural frequencies and mode shapes) calculated using these excitation types, and thus to evaluate the performance of VBDD techniques implemented using the resulting modal data. Field tests were conducted using different sources of dynamic excitation: ambient, traffic excitation, and impact excitation. The purpose of field testing was to study the characteristics and repeatability of the modal parameters derived using the different types of dynamic excitation, and to acquire data that could be used to update a FE model for further numerical simulation. A FE model of the Red Deer River bridge, calibrated to match the field measured dynamic properties, was subjected to different types of numerically simulated dynamic excitation with different noise (random variations) levels added to them. The types of dynamic excitation considered included harmonic forced excitation, random forced excitation and the subsequent free vibration decay, impact excitation, and different models of truck excitation. The bridge model was subjected to four different damage scenarios; in addition, six VBDD methods were implemented to evaluate their ability to identify and localize damage. The effects of uncertainty in the definition of controlled-force excitation sources and variation in measurement of the bridge response were also investigated. Field tests on the Hudson Bay bridge showed that excitation induced by large trucks generally produced more reliable data than that of smaller vehicles due to higher signal-to-noise ratios in the measured response. It was also found that considering only the free vibration phase of the response after the vehicle left the bridge gave more reliable data. Impact excitation implemented the on Hudson Bay bridge using a spring-hammer yielded repeatable and high quality results, while using a heavy weight delectometer for impact excitation on the Broadview bridge produced results of lesser quality due to the occurrence of multiple strikes of the impact hammer. In general, wind induced vibration measurements taken from both bridges were less effective for defining modal properties than large vehicle loading or impact excitation. All of the VBDD methods examined in this study could detect damage if the comparison was made between modal parameters acquired by eigenvalue analyses of two FE models of the bridge, before and after damage. However, the performance of VBDD methods declined when the dynamic properties were calculated from response time histories and noise was introduced. In general, the damage index method performed better than other damage detection methods considered. Numerical simulation results showed that harmonic excitation, impact excitation, and the free decay phase after random excitation yielded results that were consistent enough to be used for the identification of damage. The reliability of VBDD methods in detecting damage dropped once noise was introduced. Noise superimposed on the excitation force had little effect on the estimated modal properties and the performance of VBDD methods. On the other hand, noise superimposed on the “measured” dynamic response had a pronounced negative influence on the performance of the VBDD methods.



dynamic excitation, Vibration based damage detection, Bridge testing



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


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