A combined soft computing-mechanics approach to damage evaluation and detection in reinforced concrete beams



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Kansas State University


Damage detection and structural health monitoring are topics that have been receiving increased attention from researchers around the world. A structure can accumulate damage during its service life, which in turn can impair the structure’s safety. Currently, visual inspection is performed by experienced personnel in order to evaluate damage in structures. This approach is affected by the constraints of time and availability of qualified personnel. This study aims to facilitate damage evaluation and detection in concrete bridge girders without the need for visual inspection while minimizing field measurements. Simply-supported beams with different geometric, material and cracking parameters (cracks’ depth, width and location) were modeled in three phases using Abaqus finite element analysis software in order to obtain stiffness values at specified nodes. In the first two phases, beams were modeled using beam elements. Phase I included beams with a single crack, while phase II included beams with up to two cracks. For phase III, beams with a single crack were modeled using plane stress elements. The resulting damage databases from the three phases were then used to train two types of Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). The first network type (ANNf) solves the forward problem of providing a health index parameter based on the predicted stiffness values. The second network type (ANNi) solves the inverse problem of predicting the most probable cracking pattern, where a unique analytical solution is not attainable. In phase I, beams with 3, 5, 7 and 9 stiffness nodes and a single crack were modeled. For the forward problem, ANNIf had the geometric, material and cracking parameters as inputs and stiffness values as outputs. This network provided excellent prediction accuracy measures (R2 > 99%). For the inverse problem, ANNIi had the geometric and material parameters as well as stiffness values as inputs and the cracking parameters as outputs. Better prediction accuracy measures were achieved when more stiffness nodes were utilized in the ANN modeling process. It was also observed that decreasing the number of required outputs immensely improved the quality of predictions provided by the ANN. This network provided less accurate predictions (R2 = 68%) compared to ANNIf, however, ANNIi still provided reasonable results, considering the non-uniqueness of this problem’s solution. In phase II, beams with 9 stiffness nodes and two cracks were modeled following the same procedure. ANNIIf provided excellent results (R2 > 99%) while ANNIIi had less accurate (R2 = 65%) but still reasonable predictions. Finally, in phase III, simple span beams with 3, 5, 7 and 9 stiffness nodes and a single crack were modeled using plane stress elements. ANNIIIf (R2 > 99%) provided excellent results while ANNIIIi had less accurate (R2 = 65%) but still reasonable predictions. Predictions in this phase were very accurate for the crack depth and location parameters (R2 = 97% and 99%, respectively). Further inspection showed that ANNIIIi provided more accurate predictions when compared with ANNIi. Overall, the obtained results were reasonable and showed good agreement with the actual values. This indicates that using ANNs is an excellent approach to damage evaluation, and a viable approach to obtain the, analytically unattainable, solution of the inverse damage detection problem.



Damage detection, Finite element analysis, Artificial neural network

Graduation Month



Master of Science


Department of Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Hayder A. Rasheed