Crack-Length Estimation for Structural Health Monitoring Using the High-Frequency Resonances Excited by the Energy Release during Fatigue-Crack Growth
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Acoustic waves are widely used in structural health monitoring (SHM) for detecting fatigue cracking. The strain energy released when a fatigue crack advances has the effect of exciting acoustic waves, which travel through the structures and are picked up by the sensors. Piezoelectric wafer active sensors (PWAS) can effectively sense acoustic waves due to fatigue-crack growth. Conventional acoustic-wave passive SHM, which relies on counting the number of acoustic events, cannot precisely estimate the crack length. In the present research, a novel method for estimating the crack length was proposed based on the high-frequency resonances excited in the crack by the energy released when a crack advances. In this method, a PWAS sensor was used to sense the acoustic wave signal and predict the length of the crack that generated the acoustic event. First, FEM analysis was undertaken of acoustic waves generated due to a fatigue-crack growth event on an aluminum-2024 plate. The FEM analysis was used to predict the wave propagation pattern and the acoustic signal received by the PWAS mounted at a distance of 25 mm from the crack. The analysis was carried out for crack lengths of 4 and 8 mm. The presence of the crack produced scattering of the waves generated at the crack tip; this phenomenon was observable in the wave propagation pattern and in the acoustic signals recorded at the PWAS. A study of the signal frequency spectrum revealed peaks and valleys in the spectrum that changed in frequency and amplitude as the crack length was changed from 4 to 8 mm. The number of peaks and valleys was observed to increase as the crack length increased. We suggest this peak–valley pattern in the signal frequency spectrum can be used to determine the crack length from the acoustic signal alone. An experimental investigation was performed to record the acoustic signals in crack lengths of 4 and 8 mm, and the results were found to match well with the FEM predictions.