An Analysis of Modern Bridge Inspection Technologies

Old Concrete Bridge at Sunset
Old Concrete Bridge at Sunset

Damaged and deteriorating bridges are a major concern when it comes to transportation infrastructures. According to the ARTBA Bridge Report, “1 in 3 U.S. bridges need repair or replacement” and there are over 46,100 that are considered to be structurally deficient. Each year millions of dollars are spent on keeping these bridges structurally sound and functional. Damage to bridges are a result of a number of factors, including; exposure to harsh environment conditions, variable loading and vibration, the presence of chlorides in de-icing salts, and more. In order to ensure the safety of these structures, a variety of both destructive and non-destructive technologies are used to both detect damage and repair it (Sika).

Get Your First SmartRock Concrete Sensor for FREE

Giatec SR demo kit_
Giatec SR demo kit_

Analysis of Modern Bridge Inspection Technologies

6 Methods for Inspecting Bridge Damage and Deterioration

Visual Inspection

Pothole in concrete bridge
Visual inspections are often able to detect damage like potholes; however, they’re less effective at identifying problems like cracks and corrosion.

Method: Inspecting the structure with the naked eye to look for potholes, cracks, spalling, etc.

Advantages: Is an easy and straightforward approach which does not require training.

Disadvantages: While a good starting point for inspecting bridge damage, this approach does not provide a proper assessment of what is happening on the interior of the structure, and only analyzes issues in need of immediate repair.

Acoustical Techniques

Method: This is a non-destructive technique which is performed using a chain drag or hammer to identify changes in sound pitch. The test is able to detect delamination, as well as the separation of coating or the splitting of a structure into layers.

Advantages: Minimal training is required to perform the test and the equipment is relatively cheap.

Disadvantages: Tests may not be accurate due to hearing biases, requiring a “trained” ear for accurate analysis. Bridges with asphalt overlays cannot be tested using this method.

Infrared/Thermal Imaging Inspection

Method: This non-destructive practice examines changes in infrared radiation from the surface of concrete and indicates delamination.

Advantages: Can be performed quickly and even in a moving vehicle.

Disadvantages: This method cannot be performed on bridges with asphalt overlays. The data must be obtained when there is a large thermal gradient between the bridge and ambient temperatures.

Coring and Chipping

Method: A destructive technique that uses a drilled core to create a hole in order to connect to the steel reinforcement and assess corrosion damage, and mechanical and chemical properties of the concrete.

Advantages: Much more information can be obtained about the health of the concrete structure using this method.

Disadvantages: Destructive technique can, at times, be more damaging to the overall structure’s integrity. Once data has been collected, the holes must be repaired.

Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Method: This non-destructive test uses electromagnetic radiation to image the subsurface of the concrete and detect changes such as delamination, voids, and cracks.

Advantages: Provides reliable and objective quantitative data regarding the health of the concrete structure early on, rather than subjective observations taken during a visual inspection, for example.

Disadvantages: Requires high energy consumption and an expert to interpret the data.

Half-Cell Potential Test

Giatec XCell

Method: This non-destructive testing technique assesses the voltage between the steel reinforcement within the concrete and an electrode which is placed on the concrete’s surface to map corrosion activity.

Advantages: This method can detect corrosion before it progresses to the point of delamination, allowing for early repair. Giatec’s XCell™ device uses a silver/silver chloride electrode, making this NDT device more stable and accurate than those half-cell devices which use a copper/copper sulfate electrode.

Disadvantages: Depending on the device used, it can be more costly than other techniques.

Learn more about Giatec’s half-cell potential device, the XCell™ Here

Detecting the Rate of Corrosion in Reinforced Structures for the First Time with this Award-winning Device

Method: As a non-destructive testing tool, iCOR® is an award-winning device that has been recognized for its positive impact in corrosion monitoring and mitigation. Using our patented Connectionless Electrical Pulse Response Analysis (CEPRA) technology, the device is unique in its ability to perform three-in-one concrete testing measurements of: rebar corrosion rate, half-cell potential, and in-situ electrical resistivity. These measurements are critical to the success of rehabilitation projects and to the repair of concrete structures.

Advantages:

  • Doesn’t require a connection to the rebar to obtain information regarding the corrosion of reinforced steel.
  • Provides reliable and objective quantitative data regarding the health of the concrete structure early on. Being able to see this damage and deterioration right away allows for repair to be done before the structural integrity of the bridge reaches the point of collapse.
  • Simple, single-person operation device.
  • Quick testing time of 3-30 seconds.

Disadvantages: More costly than other techniques.

Inspector Measuring Corrosion Rate in Concrete Bridge
Giatec’s iCOR® device is the only truly wireless device for measuring corrosion rate of the rebar in reinforced concrete.

This is my first experience performing corrosion detection and I am very happy with iCOR®. All the results obtained from iCOR® have shown consistent results compared with other non-destructive testing methods. The application is very user-friendly, providing me very clear and useful information on-site, which allows me to perform time effective measurements.

– Milad Moghaddas, Project Coordinator/Engineer, QuakeWrap Inc.

Learn more about using the iCOR® to detect rebar corrosion Here

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness

Sources:
ASCE 2020 Report Card
Sika Building Trust

Related Articles

Top 11 Green Ready-Mix Concrete Producers in North America 

Sustainability and green movements have been quickly taking over industries, and construction is no different. Every year, 20 billion tons (10 billion cubic yards) of concrete are produced globally. This makes it the second most consumed product on earth, after water. Cement is not only the most expensive ingredient in a concrete mix, but its production is also responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Get Your First SmartRock Concrete Sensor for FREE Free Demo Kit Ready-mix concrete, concrete that is batched for delivery from a…

New Giatec 360 Updates – Part 2: Graph Customization Tools

This article will continue on the topic discussed in Part 1, be sure to check it out! Get Your First SmartRock Concrete Sensor for FREE Free Demo Kit DisplayThe max and min temperature limits can be assigned to a sensor using the Parameter Thresholds function on both the app and the web platform of Giatec 360. When assigned, these limits are represented in the form of fine lines in red (max limit) and blue (min limit) color. Using the 360 dashboard, a user can choose if they…

New Giatec 360 Updates – Part 1: Temperature, Strength, and Maturity Charts

As part of Giatec’s continued efforts and goal to meet customer requirements and expectations, progressive changes are being made to the system to better comply with updating needs. Working with clients on a global scale, we strive to provide a streamlined platform that is one place for all. With the feedback collected from our valued customers several updates and transitions have been made to the Giatec 360 program, especially the ‘Charts’. To learn what the updated site has to offer and how beneficial this can be…

Missed This Year's Net Zero Construction Conference? We've Got You Covered!

Register for Full Access to All the Recorded Sessions Until April 30th

Claim Your Free Demo Kit

Get Your First SmartRock Concrete Sensor for FREE

Get Real-Time Data with SmartRock®

See how it works today

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience, analyze site traffic and assist in our marketing efforts. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy Page.