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Steel sheet pile infrastructure defect sensing


Project description

PileSense: Innovative ultrasonic guided wave technology for intelligent sensing of defects in steel sheet pile infrastructure


Structural steel is the material of choice in the vast majority of structures in coastal and offshore locations due to its combination of durability, ease of fabrication and ability to provide a relatively cost-effective solution. Despite its many benefits, steel is of course prone to corrosion, which is the principal cause of deterioration of steel waterfront structures. PileSense is an innovative NDT solution for corrosion sensing in steel piles, in particular, those sited in marine environments. It is a guided wave based remote sensing system that offers rapid and smart assessment of steel piles. Our solution overcomes limitations in state-of-the-art inspection systems, which are rudimentary and labour intensive. PileSense will revolutionise the detection of corrosion in steel piles for infrastructure operators and inspection companies. 


The PileSense project will respond to this challenge by developing a completely portable, cost-effective and non-invasive UGW corrosion sensing system that provides a quick and accurate representation of the steel sheet piles that marine infrastructure systems are so dependent upon. Some of the technical barriers to overcome include addressing small "interaction-anomalies" between the guided-waves and the profiled edges of each pile section, discovered during the trials. Unique FEA models will be applied in order to understand the wave-propagation within the steel-piling and defect detection. A new ultrasonic transducer array and attachment mechanism for the sheet-piling will form a core part of the innovative system. Advanced signal processing algorithms will deliver optimum automated defect detection capability. 


Each PileSense system will reduce the overall cost of steel-pile inspection by £172k/km. Steel-piles are very expensive to purchase and install. PileSense will allow identification of corrosion earlier and extend the life of structures through earlier repairs before damage is too great.

Brunel Innovation Centre's Role

BIC will study guided wave properties in corrugated sheet piles. This includes the interactions between corrugated surfaces and flat surfaces on the piles. The coupling between sea water and sheet piles will be investigated. Part of the piles are immersed in sea water, and corrosion become significant due to Accelerated-Low-Water-Corrosion. The water also influences wave propagation characteristics, and part of the wave will be reflected by the pile-water interface. These influenced will be studied by BIC. In addition, BIC will work on signal processing techniques to eliminate reflection from known edges on the pile. This is to clean up the signal, so that interpretation of the signal could be easier. On this basis, further signal processing algorithms could be investigated to improve signal to noise ratio.  

Project Partners

  • TWI Ltd
  • Transmission Dynamics
  • Brunel University London


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Tat-Hean Gan - Professional Qualifications - CEng. IntPE (UK), Eur Ing, BEng (Hons) Electrical and Electronics Engg (Uni of Nottingham), MSc in Advanced Mechanical Engineering (University of Warwick), MBA in International Business (University of Birmingham), PhD in Engineering (University of Warwick), Languages - English, Malaysian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Professional Bodies - Fellow of the British Institute of NDT, Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Tat-Hean Gan has 10 years of experience in Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) and Condition Monitoring of rotating machineries in various industries namely nuclear, renewable energy (eg Wind, Wave ad Tidal), Oil and Gas, Petrochemical, Construction and Infrastructure, Aerospace and Automotive. He is the Director of BIC, leading activities varying from Research and development to commercialisation in the areas of novel technique development, sensor applications, signal and image processing, numerical modelling and electronics hardware. His experience is also in Collaborative funding (EC FP7 and UK TSB), project management and technology commercialisation.