Strain and temperature sensing obtained through frequency shift evaluation of Brillouin scattered light is a technology that seems extremely promising for Structural Health Monitoring (SHM). Due to the intrinsic distributed sensing capability, Brillouin can measure the deformation of any individual segment of huge lengths of inexpensive single-mode fiber. In addition, Brillouin retains other typical advantages of Fiber Optic Sensors (FOS), such as harsh environment durability and interference rejection. Despite these advantages, the diffusion of Brillouin for SHM is constrained by different factors, such as the high equipment cost, the commercial unavailability of specific SHM oriented fiber products and even some prejudices on the required sensitivity performances.
In the present work, a complete SHM pilot application was developed, installed and successfully operated during a diagnostic load test on the High Performance Steel (HPS) bridge A6358 located at the Lake of the Ozarks (Miller County, MO, USA). Four out of five girders were extensively instrumented with a "smart" Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) tape having embedded fibers for strain sensing and thermal compensation. Data collected during a diagnostic load test were elaborated through a specific post-processing software, and the strain profiles retrieved were compared to traditional strain gauges and theoretical results based on the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications for structural assessment purposes. The excellent results obtained confirm the effectiveness of Brillouin SHM systems for the monitoring of real applications.