Health monitoring of civil structures is a process that aims at diagnosing and localizing structural damages. It is typically conducted by visual inspections, therefore relying vastly on the monitoring frequency and individual judgement of the inspectors. The automation of the monitoring process would be greatly beneficial by increasing life expectancy of civil structures via timely maintenance, thus improving their sustainability. In this paper, we present a sensing method for automatically localizing strain over large surfaces. The sensor consists of several soft capacitors arranged in a matrix form, which can be applied over large areas. Local strains are converted into changes in capacitance among a soft capacitors matrix, permitting damage localization. The proposed sensing method has the fundamental advantage of being inexpensive to apply over large-scale surfaces. which allows local monitoring over large regions, analogous to a biological skin. In addition, its installation is simple, necessitating only limited surface preparation and deployable utilizing off-the-shelf epoxy. Here, we demonstrate the performance of the sensor at measuring static and dynamic strain, and discuss preliminary results from an application on a bridge located in Ames, IA. Results show that the proposed sensor is a promising health monitoring method for diagnosing and localizing strain on a large-scale surface.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/simon_laflamme/26/