Damage analysis of bridge structures using vibrational techniques

  • Michael G. Wood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Much research is currently centred on the detection of damage in structures using vibrational data. The work presented here examined several areas of interest in support of a practical technique for identifying and locating damage within bridge structures using apparent changes in their vibrational response to known excitation. The proposed goals of such a technique included the need for the measurement system to be operated on site by a minimum number of staff and that the procedure should be as non-invasive to the bridge traffic-flow as possible. Initially the research investigated changes in the vibrational bending characteristics of two series of large-scale model bridge-beams in the laboratory and these included ordinary-reinforced and post-tensioned, prestressed designs. Each beam was progressively damaged at predetermined positions and its vibrational response to impact excitation was analysed. For the load-regime utilised the results suggested that the infuced damage manifested itself as a function of the span of a beam rather than a localised area. A power-law relating apparent damage with the applied loading and prestress levels was then proposed, together with a qualitative vibrational measure of structural damage. In parallel with the laboratory experiments a series of tests were undertaken at the sites of a number of highway bridges. The bridges selected had differing types of construction and geometric design including composite-concrete, concrete slab-and-beam, concrete-slab with supporting steel-troughing constructions together with regular-rectangular, skewed and heavily-skewed geometries. Initial investigations were made of the feasibility and reliability of various methods of structure excitation including traffic and impulse methods. It was found that localised impact using a sledge-hammer was ideal for the purposes of this work and that a cartridge `bolt-gun' could be used in some specific cases.
Date of Award1992
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn E.T. Penny (Supervisor), Malcolm Bailey (Supervisor), Mike Friswell (Supervisor) & John A. Purkiss (Supervisor)


  • Damage analysis
  • bridge structures
  • vibrational techniques

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