A large-area strain sensing technology for monitoring fatigue cracks in steel bridges

Xiangxiong Kong, Jian Li, William Collins, Caroline Bennett, Simon Laflamme, Hongki Jo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This paper presents a novel large-area strain sensing technology for monitoring fatigue cracks in steel bridges. The technology is based on a soft elastomeric capacitor (SEC), which serves as a flexible and large-area strain gauge. Previous experiments have verified the SEC’s capability to monitor low-cycle fatigue cracks experiencing large plastic deformation and large crack opening. Here an investigation into further extending the SEC’s capability for long-term monitoring of fatigue cracks in steel bridges subject to traffic loading, which experience smaller crack openings. It is proposed that the peak-to-peak amplitude (pk–pk amplitude) of the sensor’s capacitance measurement as the indicator of crack growth to achieve robustness against capacitance drift during long-term monitoring. Then a robust crack monitoring algorithm is developed to reliably identify the level of pk–pk amplitudes through frequency analysis, from which a crack growth index (CGI) is obtained for monitoring fatigue crack growth under various loading conditions. To generate representative fatigue cracks in a laboratory, loading protocols were designed based on constant ranges of stress intensity to limit plastic deformations at the crack tip. A series of small-scale fatigue tests were performed under the designed loading protocols with various stress intensity ratios. Test results under the realistic fatigue crack conditions demonstrated the proposed crack monitoring algorithm can generate robust CGIs which are positively correlated with crack lengths and independent from loading conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085024
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Capacitive strain sensor
  • Crack detection
  • Fatigue crack
  • High-cycle fatigue
  • Sensing skin
  • Soft elastomeric capacitor
  • Structural health monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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