Initial development of wireless acoustic emission sensor Motes for civil infrastructure state monitoring

Christian U. Grosse, Steven D. Glaser, Markus Krüger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The structural state of a bridge is currently examined by visual inspection or by wired sensor techniques, which are relatively expensive, vulnerable to inclement conditions, and time consuming to undertake. In contrast, wireless sensor networks are easy to deploy and flexible in application so that the network can adjust to the individual structure. Different sensing techniques have been used with such networks, but the acoustic emission technique has rarely been utilized. With the use of acoustic emission (AE) techniques it is possible to detect internal structural damage, from cracks propagating during the routine use of a structure, e.g. breakage of prestressing wires. To date, AE data analysis techniques are not appropriate for the requirements of a wireless network due to the very exact time synchronization needed between multiple sensors, and power consumption issues. To unleash the power of the acoustic emission technique on large, extended structures, recording and local analysis techniques need better algorithms to handle and reduce the immense amount of data generated. Preliminary results from utilizing a new concept called Acoustic Emission Array Processing to locally reduce data to information are presented. Results show that the azimuthal location of a seismic source can be successfully identified, using an array of six to eight poor-quality AE sensors arranged in a circular array approximately 200 mm in diameter. AE beamforming only requires very fine time synchronization of the sensors within a single array, relative timing between sensors of 1 μs can easily be performed by a single Mote servicing the array. The method concentrates the essence of six to eight extended waveforms into a single value to be sent through the wireless network, resulting in power savings by avoiding extended radio transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalSmart Structures and Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Acoustic emission
  • Sensor network
  • Structural health monitoring
  • Wireless


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