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19 April 2013 Non-contact ultrasonic guided wave inspection of rails
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The University of California at San Diego (UCSD), under a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Research and Development (R&D) grant, is developing a system for high-speed and non-contact rail integrity evaluation. A prototype using an ultrasonic air-coupled guided wave signal generation and air-coupled signal detection in pair with a real-time statistical analysis algorithm has been realized. This solution presents an improvement over the previously considered laser/air-coupled hybrid system because it replaces the costly and hard-to-maintain laser with a much cheaper, faster, and easier-to-maintain air-coupled transmitter. This system requires a specialized filtering approach due to the inherently poor signal-to-noise ratio of the air-coupled ultrasonic measurements in rail steel. Various aspects of the prototype have been designed with the aid of numerical analyses. In particular, simulations of ultrasonic guided wave propagation in rails have been performed using a LISA algorithm. Many of the system operating parameters were selected based on Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves, which provide a quantitative manner to evaluate different detection performances based on the trade-off between detection rate and false positive rate. Experimental tests have been carried out at the UCSD Rail Defect Farm. The laboratory results indicate that the prototype is able to detect internal rail defects with a high reliability. A field test will be planned later in the year to further validate these results. Extensions of the system are planned to add rail surface characterization to the internal rail defect detection.
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Stefano Mariani, Thompson V. Nguyen, Robert Ronald Phillips, Piotr Kijanka, Francesco Lanza di Scalea, and Wieslaw Jerzy Staszewski "Non-contact ultrasonic guided wave inspection of rails", Proc. SPIE 8692, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2013, 86921L (19 April 2013);

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