Detecting Damage in Structural Components With New Infrared Technologies

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July 30, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: July 30 on

Deterioration in bridges and other structures commonly manifests from subsurface damage that cannot be detected through visual inspections. Once the subsurface damage is observed through visual inspection, deterioration has advanced to a stage where significant repairs or even replacement may be required.

Technologies that can detect the onset of deterioration in its earliest stages allow for prompt detection and repair that can save money and improve safety.

The U.S. DOT SBIR program and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funded development of a suite of infrared-based technologies that assess the condition of paint coatings; image subsurface damage in concrete; and measure the level of stress in steel.  The technology is based on ThermalStare nondestructive testing technologies developed by Fuchs Consulting Inc. (FCI) to detect defects in specialized coatings used for military applications. 

The ability of ThermalStare infrared technologies to accurately detect and image subsurface damage in concrete has improved decision making for highway bridge maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation.  Operating without the need for traffic control, the new technology reduces the cost and disruption associated with detailed condition assessments while providing more accurate information on hidden damage below the surface. The data’s accuracy can help avoid the cost and disruption caused by project overruns and allow for early intervention to reduce repair needs. 

ThermalStare technologies developed by FCI are also used to detect defects in specialized coatings used for military applications. The detection of coating defects is critical to prevent damage to aircraft and ensure safe flight operations. The new technology replaces subjective, time-consuming, hands-on inspections with a more accurate, repeatable, real-time measurement that documents the position and extent of damage.