Sensitivity of PZT impedance sensors for damage detection of concrete structures

Yaowen Yang, Yuhang Hu, Yong Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Piezoelectric ceramic Lead Zirconate Titanate (PZT) based electro-mechanical impedance (EMI) technique for structural health monitoring (SHM) has been successfully applied to various engineering systems. However, fundamental research work on the sensitivity of the PZT impedance sensors for damage detection is still in need. In the traditional EMI method, the PZT electro-mechanical (EM) admittance (inverse of the impedance) is used as damage indicator, which is difficult to specify the effect of damage on structural properties. This paper uses the structural mechanical impedance (SMI) extracted from the PZT EM admittance signature as the damage indicator. A comparison study on the sensitivity of the EM admittance and the structural mechanical impedance to the damages in a concrete structure is conducted. Results show that the SMI is more sensitive to the damage than the EM admittance thus a better indicator for damage detection. Furthermore, this paper proposes a dynamic system consisting of a number of single-degree-of-freedom elements with mass, spring and damper components to model the SMI. A genetic algorithm is employed to search for the optimal value of the unknown parameters in the dynamic system. An experiment is carried out on a two-storey concrete frame subjected to base vibrations that simulate earthquake. A number of PZT sensors are regularly arrayed and bonded to the frame structure to acquire PZT EM admittance signatures. The relationship between the damage index and the distance of the PZT sensor from the damage is studied. Consequently, the sensitivity of the PZT sensors is discussed and their sensing region in concrete is derived.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-346
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Concrete
  • Damage
  • Electro-mechanical impedance
  • PZT
  • Structural health monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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