Reliable early-stage damage detection requires continuous structural health monitoring (SHM) over large areas of structure, and with high spatial resolution of sensors. This paper presents the development stage of prototype strain sensing sheets based on Large Area Electronics (LAE), in which thin-film strain gauges and control circuits are integrated on the flexible electronics and deposited on a polyimide sheet that can cover large areas. These sensing sheets were applied for fatigue crack detection on small-scale steel plates. Two types of sensing-sheet interconnects were designed and manufactured, and dense arrays of strain gauge sensors were assembled onto the interconnects. In total, four (two for each design type) strain sensing sheets were created and tested, which were sensitive to strain at virtually every point over the whole sensing sheet area. The sensing sheets were bonded to small-scale steel plates, which had a notch on the boundary so that fatigue cracks could be generated under cyclic loading. The fatigue tests were carried out at the Carleton Laboratory of Columbia University, and the steel plates were attached through a fixture to the loading machine that applied cyclic fatigue load. Fatigue cracks then occurred and propagated across the steel plates, leading to the failure of these test samples. The strain sensor that was close to the notch successfully detected the initialization of fatigue crack and localized the damage on the plate. The strain sensor that was away from the crack successfully detected the propagation of fatigue crack based on the time history of measured strain. Overall, the results of the fatigue tests validated general principles of the strain sensing sheets for crack detection.
A sensing sheet based on large-area electronics consists of a dense array of discrete short-gauge sensor units, integrated
circuits for collecting, analyzing and communicating data, and a flexible photovoltaic system that serves as both a power
harvester and a protective layer. We investigated the sensitivity of thin-film full-bridge strain sensors to cracks, and the
effect of crack position with respect to the sensor. In general, the results of this research show that full-bridge strain
sensors can successfully detect and characterize cracks in structural materials and are therefore good candidates to utilize
in a sensing sheet.
Fiber optic sensors (FOS) have significantly evolved and have reached their market maturity during the last decade. Their widely recognized advantages are high precision, long-term stability, and durability. But in addition to these advantageous performances, FOS technologies allow for affordable instrumentation of large areas of structure enabling global large-scale monitoring based on long-gauge sensors and integrity monitoring based on distributed sensors. These two approaches are particularly suitable for damage detection and characterization, i.e., damage localization and to certain extent quantification and propagation, as illustrated by two applications presented in detail in this paper: post-tensioned concrete bridge and segmented concrete pipeline. Early age cracking was detected, localized and quantified in the concrete deck of a pedestrian bridge using embedded long-gauge FOS. Post-tensioning of deck closed the cracks; however, permanent weakening in a bridge joint occurred due to cracking and it was identified and quantified. The damage was confirmed using embedded distributed FOS and a separate load test of the bridge. Real-size concrete pipeline specimens and surrounding soil were equipped with distributed FOS and exposed to permanent ground displacement in a large-scale testing facility. Two tests were performed on different pipeline specimens. The sensors bonded on the pipeline specimens successfully detected and localized rupture of pipeline joints, while the sensors embedded in the soil were able to detect and localize the failure plane. Comparison with strain-gauges installed on the pipeline and visual inspection after the test confirmed accurate damage detection and characterization.