Dynamic Characterization of a Soft Elastomeric Capacitor for Structural Health Monitoring

Laflamme, Simon
Ubertini, Filippo
Saleem, Hussam
D'Alessandro, Antonella
Downey, Austin
Ceylan, Halil
Materazzi, Annibale
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Structural health monitoring of civil infrastructures is a difficult task, often impeded by the geometrical size of the monitored systems. Recent advances in conducting polymers enabled the fabrication of flexible sensors capable of covering large areas, a possible solution to the monitoring challenge of mesoscale systems. The authors have previously proposed a novel sensor consisting of a soft elastomeric capacitor (SEC) acting as a strain gauge. Arranged in a network configuration, the SECs have the potential to cover very large surfaces. In this paper, understanding of the proposed sensor is furthered by evaluating its performance at vibration-based monitoring of large-scale structures. The dynamic behavior of the SEC is characterized by subjecting the sensor to a frequency sweep, and detecting vibration modes of a full-scale steel beam. Results show that the sensor can be used to detect fundamental modes and dynamic input. Also, a network of SECs is used for output-only modal identification of a full-scale concrete beam, and results are benchmarked against off-the-shelf accelerometers. The SEC network performs well at estimating both natural frequencies and mode shapes. The resolution of the sensor is currently limited by the available electronics to measure small changes in capacitance, which reduces its accuracy with increasing frequencies in both the time and frequency domain.


This is a manuscript of an article from Journal of Structural Engineering, July 2014. Doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)ST.1943-541X.0001151. Posted with permission.

CNDE, Soft elastomeric capacitor, smart sensors, nanotechnology, strain gauges, structural health monitoring, vibration signatures