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Simple Accurate Model-Based Description of Direct Coupled Ground Penetrating Radar


IGERT Fellow Christopher Wright performed the following research.

Lack of regular maintenance programs for infrastructure systems in the United States has created a sizeable financial gap between available and required funds to keep these essential systems in good condition. Asset management strategies are being employed to ensure the most efficient use of available funds. Bridges, and their decks in particular, are components of the infrastructure system that are well suited for management by these systems due to their accessibility and general uniformity. Essential to successful bridge management is knowledge of the current state of the bridge network as well as the ability to forecast future states. Several nondestructive testing technologies have the potential to fill this role and among them, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) stands out as an efficient and easy to use tool.

Ground penetrating radar faces several challenges before it can become an integral part of bridge management systems and the most important of these is to increase the accuracy with which it can detect corrosion in steel reinforced concrete bridge decks. This issue was addressed through computational modeling of bridge deck conditions that lead to anomalies in GPR data often correlated with damage in the deck. Two models were examined: one representing an early stage of deterioration where contaminants are concentrated in the concrete covering the steel reinforcement, and the other a later stage of deterioration where the reinforcement is surrounded by contaminants. Simulations with both models resulted in GPR responses that could be interpreted as damage. Since only one of the models directly affected the reinforcing steel, it was concluded that this was a likely source of errors in GPR diagnoses. A better understanding of how GPR responds to all stages of deterioration can contribute to the development of data analysis techniques that minimize these errors while boosting overall efficiency.

Address Goals

This highlight addresses the Discovery strategic goal by using rigorous computational analytical models to analyze a commercial radar project. Thereby enabling Kit to develop advanced processing algorithms for improved understanding subsurface condition.

The research was performed by an IGERT Fellow trained in both civil and electrical engineering with concentration in electromagnetic physical science. This interdisciplinary program enabled him to extend beyond the traditional expertise and expectations of students in either one of these programs.