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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Propagation of nonlinear waves in waveguides and application to nondestructive stress measurement

  • Author(s): Nucera, Claudio
  • et al.

Propagation of nonlinear waves in waveguides is a field that has received an ever increasing interest in the last few decades. Nonlinear guided waves are excellent candidates for interrogating long waveguide like structures because they combine high sensitivity to structural conditions, typical of nonlinear parameters, with large inspection ranges, characteristic of wave propagation in bounded media. The primary topic of this dissertation is the analysis of ultrasonic waves, including ultrasonic guided waves, propagating in their nonlinear regime and their application to structural health monitoring problems, particularly the measurement of thermal stress in Continuous Welded Rail (CWR). Following an overview of basic physical principles generating nonlinearities in ultrasonic wave propagation, the case of higher-harmonic generation in multi-mode and dispersive guided waves is examined in more detail. A numerical framework is developed in order to predict favorable higher-order generation conditions (i.e. specific guided modes and frequencies) for waveguides of arbitrary cross-sections. This model is applied to various benchmark cases of complex structures. The nonlinear wave propagation model is then applied to the case of a constrained railroad track (CWR) subjected to thermal variations. This study is a direct response to the key need within the railroad transportation community to develop a technique able to measure thermal stresses in CWR, or determine the rail temperature corresponding to a null thermal stress (Neutral Temperature - NT). The numerical simulation phase concludes with a numerical study performed using ABAQUS commercial finite element package. These analyses were crucial in predicting the evolution of the nonlinear parameter [Beta] with thermal stress level acting in the rail. A novel physical model, based on interatomic potential, was developed to explain the origin of nonlinear wave propagation under constrained thermal expansion. In fact, where the classical physics of nonlinear wave propagation assumes finite strains, the case at hand of constrained thermal expansion is, instead, characterized by infinitesimal (ideally zero) strains. Hand-in-hand with the theoretical analyses, a comprehensive program of experimental testing has been conducted at UCSD's Large-Scale Rail NT Test-bed, a unique 70-ft track with controlled temperature excursions constructed at UCSD's Powell Laboratories with government and industry funding. A prototype has been constructed for wayside determination of the rail NT based on the measurement of wave nonlinearities. The experimental results obtained with the prototype in the Large-Scale Test-bed are extremely encouraging, showing an accuracy of only a few degrees for the determination of the rail NT. If confirmed in the field, this result could revolutionize the way CWR are maintained to prevent rail buckling with respect to the thermal stress management problem

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