All structures weaken as they age, strained by the effects of extreme cold, corrosion by water and salts, movement by earthquakes and undermined by flooding. Such weakensses can cause catastrophic failures, many of which can be avoided if the health of the structure is monitored, evaluated and maintained.
Structural health monitoring (SHM) involves using sensors permanently attached to a structure to collect data to provide real-time information on its condition. Through on-going analysis of the data collected, SHM allows engineers and inspectors to observe any changes to the health of the structure, be they new defects, or the deterioration of existing flaws.
Using reliable data, an objective assessment can be made of a structure's ability to safely and efficiently perform its intended function. These in turn allow operators to better plan and prioritise their maintenance programmes to ensure that their structures are able to do their job safely and efficiently.
TWI has world class expertise in SHM, founded on its long history of cutting edge research into structural failures. Four factors determine the way a structure fails under load: imposed stresses, defects in the material, the immediate environment and susceptibility of the material's microstructure. These factors produce fatigue and corrosion in metallic members which eventually lead to brittle or ductile fracture.
For over 40 years, TWI has studied the NDT techniques that enable sensors and data acquisition systems to be designed so that flaw growth can be detected.