Application of contactless ultrasound toward automated inspection of concrete structures

Suyun Ham, John S. Popovics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract In this paper we demonstrate the potential of contactless ultrasonic sensing for rapid and automated characterization of concrete structures. Practical generation and detection of ultrasonic surface waves are made possible using air-coupled sensors, offering the potential to overcome limitations associated with infrastructure assessment measurements. The objective is to demonstrate enhanced performance when miniature, micro-machined sensors (MEMS) and high voltage solid-state capacitance transmitters are used in a scanning configuration, suitable for automation. The employed sensors, system and testing configuration, with respect to sensor height and incident angle, are described. An optimal test configuration is defined and incorporated into a controlled scanning system. Tests with the optimized configuration were carried out on reinforced concrete elements: a pre-stressed concrete rail tie that contains rail seat damage and concrete blocks with varying levels of simulated micro-cracking damage. In both cases, obtained surface wave velocity and attenuation signal characteristics show sensitivity to concrete material damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1943
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalAutomation in Construction
StatePublished - Aug 10 2015


  • Air-coupled
  • Infrastructure
  • MEMs
  • Microcracking
  • Non-destructive
  • Rail ties
  • Sensor
  • Surface waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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