Non-contact monitoring of the tension in partially submerged, miter-gate diagonals

Brian A. Eick, Matthew D. Smith, Billie F. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Miter gates are water-control structures used as the damming surface on river locks and allow the water levels in the lock to raise or lower as needed. Miter gates have channel-like cross sections and are thus prone to torsional deflection due to gravity loads. To counter-act the tendency for torsional deflection and to add torsional rigidity to the gate, slender steel members termed diagonals are added across the diagonal dimension of the gate and pre-tensioned. To maintain appropriate tension in the diagonals over their lifetime, the tension in the diagonals should be monitored; however, no such monitoring is utilized. Vibration based methods to obtain an estimate of the tensile loads in the diagonal are attractive because they are simple, inexpensive, and do not require continuous monitoring. However, employing vibration-based methods to estimate the tension in the diagonals is particularly challenging because the diagonals are subjected to varying levels of submersion in water. Finding a relationship between the frequency of vibration and applied pretension that adequately addressed the effects of submersion on diagonals is difficult. This paper proposes an approach to account for the effect of submersion on the estimated tension in miter gate diagonals. Laboratory tests are conducted using scale-model diagonal specimens subjected to various levels of tension and submersion in water. The frequency of the diagonal specimens is measured and compared to an approximation using an assumed modes model. The effects of submersion on the frequency of vibration for the partially submerged diagonals are largely explained by added mass on the diagonals. Field validation is performed using a previously developed vision-based method of extracting the frequency of vibration in conjunction with the proposed method of tension estimation of an in-service miter gate diagonal that is also instrumented with load cells. Results for the proposed method show excellent agreement with load cell measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
JournalSmart Structures and Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Assumed modes
  • Chebyshev polynomials
  • Diagonals
  • Miter gates
  • Partial submersion
  • Pre-tension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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