About the research
The final report presents the results of an experimental and computational study on the recently-developed air-coupled impact-echo (IE) nondestructive testing (NDT) method, in which microphones replace the traditional physically-coupled IE sensors. To develop an optimum testing system and verify the new method, two concrete plates were tested in the laboratory, one of which was a solid concrete slab, and the other was a mock-up reinforced concrete bridge deck with artificial defects. An IE testing system was developed using a custom program written in LabVIEW. The accuracy and feasibility of the air-coupled test method to determine the solid thickness of concrete structures and to detect defects or flaws, such as delaminations or voids, were verified by comparing test results obtained via the air-coupled and physically-coupled sensors. When using the air-coupled IE method in practice, ambient noise generated by wind, traffic, and machinery will be sensed by the microphones and therefore reduce the signal to noise ratio of the data. Additionally, a portion of the acoustic energy generated by the impacts during testing will be lost due to the mismatch in acoustic impedance between concrete and air. To address these problems, a parabolic reflector and a sound isolation enclosure were studied and found to improve the quality of recorded signals compared to using a microphone alone. Finite element method (FEM) based numerical simulations were conducted using COMSOL Multi-physics software to understand the mechanics of the air-coupled IE test, determine the optimum geometry for the parabolic reflector, and investigate the effects of the microphone height. Signal filtering techniques including band-pass, high-pass, and adaptive filters were implemented in MATLAB for post-processing the test data. High-pass filters were found useful for minimizing measured ambient traffic and wind noise, which was determined to be primarily below 2 kHz. Two-dimensional (2D) IE scanning tests were conducted on the bridge deck with artificial defects to locate the defect positions by the air-coupled and physically coupled test methods. Results obtained by these two methods are in good agreement, demonstrating the accuracy and feasibility of the air-coupled IE test method.