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Non Destructive Evaluation

The first step towards performing a condition assessment is to get details of the
structure with respect to its design, features, and past performance. An initial visual
inspection of the structure can reveal useful information about areas that need a clos er
look. There are many causes for the deterioration of structures, so it is difficult to
exactly pinpoint the type of damage that has led to the deterioration. However, all types
of damage, whether they be load related, environment related, or earthquake related,
lead to similar signs of deterioration, such as cracking, scaling, delamination,
discoloration, etc.
Areas that show cracking, discoloration, rust stains, etc. should be investigated closely
with the help of visual aids such as magnifying lens and telescopes. The visual inspection
helps in planning a detailed strategy to investigate the structure further using more
sophisticated techniques.
A number of investigative techniques are available to study the condition of the material
in a structure. These include the evaluation of the material in a non-destructive manner,
i.e. without causing any damage while testing, and semi-destructive tests such as
removal of a piece of the material for evaluation, or even destructive tests where the
material is tested to failure without damaging the overall structure.
The non-destructive techniques range in sophistication from simple ones where the
quality of sound obtained by striking the surface of the material with a hammer
indicates the quality of the material, to complicated techniques where the ultrasonic
signals traveling through the material are analyzed mathematically.
Structural integrity can be achieved by providing:
Components free of cracks and defects (a) during manufacture, and (b) in
Damage tolerant design: Provide means to the structure to resist crack growth
for a given period. This can be done by either using crack-resistant materials, or
by using structural configurations that are resistant to crack growth (e.g. using
stiffeners, fibres, using redundant components).
Non-destructive evaluation (NDE) is also sometimes called ND Testing (NDT) or ND
Inspection (NDI). Generally, the use of words like flaw or defect is avoided. Instead,
terms such as cracks, inhomogeneities, pits, inclusions, indications, or
anomalies are used.
The failure rate of a material during its service life is not constant. As shown in Figure
1, the failure rate is high in the initial stages due to manufacturing defects. In the late
stages of service, the service-induced damage again causes an increase in the failure

Figure 1. Failure rate of materials and components
Some common manufacturing defects in concrete include voids and inclusions (due to
improper consolidation), poor surface finish or cracked surface (due to plastic
shrinkage), damage and cracking from residual stresses (due to thermal effects), surface
weakness, weak bonds between steel and concrete due to bleeding, cold joints etc.
Service-induced damage could be load related, such as fatigue, impact, residual stresses
due to overloading and creep, or environment-related, such as corrosion, chemical
attack, ASR, creep and shrinkage, carbonation, freezing and thawing, salt scaling, etc.
Improper maintenance or repair could also be classified as a service-induced damage.
A good NDE method should be:
Sensitive to small flaws
NDE methods operate at their limit for many problems. Thus, it is not possible to obtain
100% accuracy from these methods. Some factors that affect reliability of NDE
techniques are listed below.
Crack location and orientation
Component geometry
Selection of correct technique
Correct application of technique proper training of technician and proper
calibration of equipment
Environmental factors weather, and material property
Human factors (most important!) test environment, fatigue (or alternately,
alertness), time constraints, confidence, expectations.
NDE of concrete
Typical defects in concrete are cracks, delaminations, voids, honeycombing, loss of
subgrade support, inadequate member thickness, etc. Compared to metals and
composites, NDE of concrete is complicated because of the following:
Heterogeneity of concrete: makes it difficult to distinguish between defects and
naturally occurring inclusions.
Universal failure criteria do not exist for concrete structures. It is not easy to
establish accept / reject criteria.
Failure of concrete is a complex phenomenon because more than one mechanism of
damage occurs simultaneously, and it is difficult to diagnose which mechanism caused
the initial damage. Hence, it is necessary to have an understanding of the basic
underlying causes of damage in concrete and their manifestation. The dominant cause
for failure of concrete is corrosion of the reinforcing steel. The other causes are less
common, but still critical, agents of material failure. It is important to bear in mind that
the failure of concrete structures can seldom be ascribed exclusively to the failure of a
material component (cement, aggregate or reinforcement) or to failure of the system
(structural or design failure). Table 1 presents the common distress mechanisms in
Table 1. Causes of distress and deterioration of concrete
Visual examination of
distressed portion
Deterioration type and its
Rust staining, cracks run in
straight parallel lines at
uniform intervals as per the
reinforcement position,
Spalling of concrete cover.
Reinforcement corrosion:
Exposure to normal
atmospheric conditions, Cyclic
wetting and drying
Cracks mostly on horizontal
surfaces, Parallel to each
other, 1 to 2 m apart,
relatively shallow 20-50 mm,
vary in length from 50mm -
Plastic shrinkage: Caused by
surface tension forces,
environmental effects of
temperature (concrete and
ambient), wind velocity in
excess of 5 mph and low
relative humidity.
Cracks characterized by
their fineness and absence of
any indication of movement,
shallow (a few inches) in
depth, typically orthogonal
or blocky
Drying shrinkage and creep:
Placement of a footing on a
rough foundation, or chemical
bonding of new concrete to
earlier placements; the
combination of shrinkage and
restraints causes tensile
stresses that can ultimately
lead to cracking.
Cracks are regularly spaced
(restrained contraction) and
perpendicular to larger
dimensions of concrete,
spalling (restrained
expansion), shallow and
isolated (internal restraint),
extend to full depth
Thermal effects: Induced by
exothermal chemical reaction
in mass concretes. If volume
change is restrained during
cooling of the mass, by the
foundation, the previously
placed concrete, or exterior
surfaces, sufficient tensile
(external restraint), surface
discolouration (fire damage)
strain can develop to cause
Spalling and scaling of the
surface, exposing of
aggregate which is un-
cracked, surface parallel
cracking and gaps around
Freeze-thaw deterioration:
Alternate cycles of freezing
and thawing, use of deicing
Absence of calcium
hydroxide in cement paste
and surface dissolution of
cement paste exposing
Acid attack: Acid smoke, rain,
exhaust gases
Rough surface, presence of
sand grains (resembles a
coarse sand paper)
Aggressive water attack:
Causes serious effects in
hydraulic structures due to a
constant supply and results in
washing away of aggregate
particles because of leaching of
cement paste
Map or pattern cracking,
general appearance of
swelling of concrete
Alkali-carbonate reaction:
Chemical reactions between
alkali in cement with certain
dolomitic aggregates,
Expansion due to
dedolomitisation and
subsequent crystallization of
Map or pattern cracking,
expands freely, silica gel
leaches from cracks, calcium
hydroxide depleted paste.
Alkali-silica reaction:
Chemical reactions between
alkali ions (Na+ and K+) in
cement with silica in
Map and pattern cracking,
general disintegration of
Sulphate attack: Formation of
gypsum, thaumasite and
ettringite which have higher
volumes than the reactants
Single or multiple long
diagonal cracks (usually
larger than 0.25 inch in
width) accompanying
misalignment and
Structural damage: Induced
by improper construction and
maintenance throughout the
lifetime of a structure.
Spalling or cracking of
concrete, Complete collapse
of structure
Accidental loadings: Generates
stresses higher than strength
of concrete resulting in
localized or complete failure of
the structure
Honey combing, Bug holes
(Small holes less than about
0.25 inch in diameter), cold
joints, Cracking in concrete.
Construction errors: Improper
mix design, consolidation,
curing etc., Inexperienced
labour work, incorrect
position of reinforcement.
Surface is generally smooth
with localized depressions,
long shallow grooves,
spalling along monolith
joints (abrasion). Severely
pitted and extremely rough
surface (Cavitation)
Erosion: Rolling and grinding
of debris (abrasion), sub
atmospheric pressure,
turbulent flow and impact
energy (Cavitation)
Cracking or spalling of
concrete, complete
deterioration of the
Design errors:
Abrupt changes in design,
insufficient reinforcement,
inadequate provision for
deflection and drainage.
Visual inspection
Visual inspection is the most important non-destructive test. It forms the basis of all
inspections. A detailed visual inspection makes it possible to narrow down the critical
areas in a structure that need further investigation using sophisticated techniques. The
trained eye of an inspector can often reveal information that is sometimes difficult to
pick up using hi-tech instruments.
Use of visual aids
Visual inspections may be performed directly or indirectly (when photographs,
radiographs or videos of the damaged areas are analyzed at a later stage). The direct
inspection can be aided by a number of tools:
Magnifying lenses
Real-time video
Ruler, measuring tape, crack width gauge
Light hammer, chipping / scraping tools
Borescopes are industrial telescopes that give access to closed areas. These can be of
three types:
Rigid: limited to straight line of sight; different fields of view can be used either
straight ahead or on the side of the instrument
Flexible: these are fibre optic bundles that can curve and fit into enclosed areas
that are unreachable using rigid borescopes
Video-assisted: these are flexible borescopes with an attached Charged Couple
Device (CCD) camera that can give a real time video feed.
The following items of inspection apply to concrete construction
Cracks Can be classified into:
(a) Hairline barely visible
(b) Fine 1/32 to 1/16 inch
(c) Medium 1/16 to 1/8 inch
(d) Wide Greater than 1/8 inch
Patterns, location, and orientation of cracks (whether stress related or not)
Scaling and spalling
Exposed reinforcement
Signs of water penetration
Other general defects that can be identified by visual observation are:
Surface distress: Disintegration of the surface, surface honeycombing, scaling.
Water leakage: Surface dampness, seepage or leakage through joints or cracks.
Movements: Deflection, heaving, settlement.
Metal corrosion: Rust staining, exposed post-tension cable strands, exposed
reinforcing bars.
Miscellaneous: Blistering membranes and coatings, pounding of water,
Limitations of visual observation
Can only detect surface defects; a clean surface is usually necessary
Low reliability (in terms of the Possibility of Detection POD)
Good lighting is necessary
Quality will vary with inspector vision
Most susceptible among all NDT methods to human factors.
Organization of plan for detailed inspection
Visual inspection can reveal the areas in the building that require further investigation.
For example, areas in concrete where rust stains are observed need to be checked for
the extent of corrosion, in order to assess the residual strength. In steel structures also,
the rate of corrosion can be checked using appropriate techniques.
The overall plan for detailed investigation may be drawn up based on the total area of
the building, as well as on the extent of damage that the building has suffered. For
example, a building with occasional complaints of water leakage would demand lesser
priority compared to a building that has just been gutted by fire or damaged by an
earthquake. The plan should first cover those areas that are structurally vulnerable and
are liable to compromise the integrity of the building.
Before chalking out the plan, an inventory of the equipment available for testing,
whether intrusive or non-destructive, should be prepared. The limitations and scope of
these equipments must be well understood. The type of test to be carried out and the
extent of the investigation (i.e. whether only specific areas are to be selected or the
entire structure needs investigation) should be properly detailed.
Rebound and penetration techniques
Rebound hammers (Schmidt hammer is the most common one) measure the
elastic rebound from the surface of concrete. The rebound value indicated by the
hammer is related empirically to the compressive strength of concrete. Rebound
hammers are thus able to provide a quick estimate of the quality of concrete.
Schmidt hammers are available in two varieties regular and pendulum-type.
The pendulum type hammer is applicable to lower strength concretes, such as
lightweight concrete, and also for weak rocks used in masonry. A digital rebound
hammer is shown in Figure 2. Adequate care must be taken for preparation of
the surface. If the surface is rough, or has too many bugholes, it needs to be
smoothened using a grit or sandpaper (areas near bugholes should be avoided).
In addition, the area to be investigated should be clean. In case the concrete is
covered with plaster, the plaster layer should be chipped off to reveal the
concrete surface for conducting the test. Figure 3 depicts the use of a Schmidt
rebound hammer to assess the quality of concrete in a slab. In this picture, the
user is holding the hammer vertically upwards. The hammer can also be used in
a horizontal arrangement. The manufacturer typically specifies the approximate
correlation between the compressive strength of the concrete and the rebound
number obtained in the tests (separately for vertical and horizontal
Penetration techniques, such as the Windsor probe method, work on the
principle of resistance to penetration of a probe that is shot into the concrete
with a definite amount of energy (80 kg-m in the Windsor probe test). The depth
of penetration of the hardened steel alloy probes is empirically related to the
compressive strength of the concrete.
Both the techniques described above are surface techniques. Thus, they are able to
assess only the surface condition of concrete. Hence, a quantitative estimation of the
compressive strength of concrete may not be possible using these methods. However, a
quick indication of damaged areas can be obtained. The application of these techniques
also requires the preparation of the surface. These methods also do not give a good
indication near edges and corners. Good calibration and training is necessary to
produce reliable results from these methods.

Figure 2. Digital rebound hammer

Figure 3. Use of Schmidt rebound hammer to detect the quality of concrete in a slab in a
fire damaged building
A qualitative evaluation of concrete can be easily obtained by just sounding it (i.e.
tapping it) with a hammer. When the hammer is struck on good concrete, a ringing
sound is created. However, on areas where delaminations or cracks occur, the striking
of the hammer produces a drum-like sound. The limitation of this method is that it
cannot detect defects that exist deep in the member. Also, defects lying under overlays
are also difficult to find.
Chain drag is another way of finding out delaminated parts and voids. Compared to
sounding with a hammer, chain drag can cover more area in a given time. In this
method, the operator passes a heavy chain on the surface of the concrete. The quality of
sound generated is picked up using microphones and characterized.
Figure 4 shows a schematic diagram of the use of sounding and chain drag methods.
The areas identified as defective in the sounding technique could be marked using
paint for further investigation. Chain drag is a more effective method as it covers a
large area, and has the potential to be mechanized. For example, to evaluate a concrete
bridge deck, a simple arrangement would be to attach chains at the back of a vehicle,
and keep appropriate sound sensors (microphones) to record the sound as the vehicle
makes a slow pass over the deck. With suitable datalogging, this can result in complete
evaluation of the bridge deck.

Figure 4. Use of sounding and chain drag techniques
Ultrasonic methods
The methods based on propagation of stress waves through concrete are most popular,
since they are reliable, can give good quantitative data, and able to map and detect
defects that lie deep in the concrete member. Ultrasonic methods can be classified into
four types:
Ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV)
Impact echo / pulse echo
Spectral analysis of surface waves (SASW)
Acoustic emission.
Properties of sound waves
Three main types of sound waves travel through materials (these are classified
depending on the direction of motion of particles):
Compressional / longitudinal wave (P-wave; P for primary)
Shear / transverse wave (S-wave; S for shear)
Surface wave (R-wave; R for Rayleigh)
In a compressional wave, the particles of the material vibrate in a direction parallel to
the wave propagation. In a shear wave, the particles vibrate perpendicular to the wave
direction. In the case of surface waves, the particle vibration both parallel and
perpendicular components.
Other types of waves also travel through materials. Lamb waves are planar waves
traveling through thin sheets, while standing waves are created by the interference of
two or more waves.
The wave velocities for the main waves are dependent on the stiffness and density of the
material. The velocity of compressional waves, V
, while the velocity of the
shear waves, V
, where E is Youngs modulus of elasticity, and G is shear
modulus or modulus of rigidity. V
is 0.5 0.6 times V
, while the velocity of surface
waves V
is 90% of V
When sound waves travel from one medium to another, a part of the energy gets
reflected and the other part gets transmitted. The amount of reflection and
transmittance depends on the acoustic impedance of the media.
Acoustic impedance, Z = V, where is the density of the material, and V is the wave
velocity. Z values for some typical materials are shown in Table 2. If the acoustic
impedances of the media are known, then:
% transmitted energy E
= 4Z1Z2/(Z1+ Z2)
, and
% reflected energy E
= (Z1-Z2)
The above formulae are valid for normal incidence of the sound wave. When the
incidence is at an oblique angle, reflection and transmittance occurs in a manner similar
to that for light rays (remember your basic sciences!).
Table 2. Acoustic impedance for some materials
Material Z (kg/m
Air 0.40
Water 1,500,000
Concrete 9,000,000
Steel 47,000,000

Ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV)
In the UPV method, the velocity of a pulse traveling through concrete is measured and
correlated to its stiffness using the relation mentioned earlier. The velocity of the pulse
increases with the stiffness of the concrete, but decrease with increasing density. Wave
attenuation increases when concrete becomes denser, because of absorption of energy. A
typical set up of the UPV test is shown in Figure 5. A shown in the figure, the test can be
used in three modes direct, semi-direct, and indirect. The direct mode, or the through-
transmission mode, is the most reliable, but needs access to both sides of the material. In
the indirect mode, a plot is drawn between the travel time of the pulse and the distance
between the transmitter and receiver. The distance at which the slope of the plot
changes represents a change in the material property (which could be a transition from
bad to good concrete, or the other way round).

Figure 5. Various arrangements of the transducers for UPV
Source: Malhotra, V. M., and Carino, N. J., Eds., CRC Handbook of Nondestructive
Testing of Concrete, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 1993
The transmitter and receiver are both piezoelectric transducers. These are able to
convert between mechanical impulse and electrical signals. The receiver picks up the
pulse generated by the transmitter (since the compressional wave is the fastest, it arrives
at the receiver first). If the distance of travel is known, then the velocity can be
calculated by a measurement of the time from the waveform. The modulus of elasticity
can then be calculated from the expression:
V = (E/)
, where &rho is the density of the material.
This expression is valid when the wavelength of the pulse is larger than the specimen
width. However, when the specimen width is greater than the wavelength, then this
expression should be modified to:
V = k(E/)
, where k is a function of the Poissons ratio of the material.
Some typical UPV scenarios are shown in Figure 6. When the concrete is of uniformly
good quality, the pulse is able to travel through without any disturbance. When there is
reinforcing steel in the vicinity, the pulse will travel faster as it goes through the steel.
When the pulse has to travel through a region full of voids and microcracks, the time of
travel is increased. Because of the presence of cracks, the pulse may not have a direct
path, and has to go around the tip of the crack. Thus, the travel time is further
increased. Sometimes due to a large crack the pulse can get completely reflected back to
the transmitter and no signal is received (From acoustic impedance data, it can be seen
that a pulse traveling from concrete into air, which in this case is the crack, would get
completely reflected).

Figure 6. UPV scenarios
In order to get reliable data from UPV, it is thus essential to obtain access to both sides
of the structure. Adequate training and calibration is necessary to use the semi-direct
and the indirect arrangements. It is difficult to point out the exact location of defects in
UPV tests, although an overall assessment of the quality of concrete can be obtained.
IS 13311 Part I (1996) gives a guideline for the analysis of velocity measurements. This
guideline is presented in Table 3.
Table 3. Velocity criterion for concrete quality grading as per IS 13311 Part I
Pulse velocity obtained in direct
transmission mode (km/sec)
Condition of
1 > 4.5 Excellent
2 3.5 4.5 Good
3 3.0 3.5 Medium
4 < 3.0 Doubtful*
* Either quality is poor or more tests necessary
Impact Echo / Pulse Echo Method
In the impact echo method, and impacting device such as a hammer is struck on the
concrete surface. The sound waves that reflect off defects or other features are picked
up by a receiving transducer, and conveyed to a signal processor. The waveform is
analyzed at the signal processor. From this analysis, the amplitude and travel time of
the waves can be evaluated. A schematic description of this system is shown in Figure 7.
Also shown in the same figure is a schematic of the pulse-echo system. In this system,
the pulses are generated by a pulsing transducer. The same transducer can then act as a
receiver, or an alternate receiver may be provided. The signal is again relayed to a
signal processor.

Figure 7. Schematic diagram of the impact-echo and pulse-echo techniques
Figure 8 depicts the measurement of defects using these systems. The travel time of the
pulse can indicate the depth of the defect, if the overall depth of the member and the
corresponding travel time are known. In addition to such simple analysis, the signal
received by the waveform analyzer can be analyzed. The main bang (MB) is what is
perceived immediately on impact. The back echo (BE) is the signal that is reflected from
the back wall, while the flaw echo (FE) is the signal from the crack or flaw. The time of
arrival of the pulse can be analyzed to obtain the depth of the flaw relative to the overall
depth. In the example shown in Figure 8, in case (1), the wave is reflected off the back
wall. In case (2), a part of the wave is reflected off the tip of a crack, and the other from
the back wall. In case (3), the wave is completely reflected off a large crack, and does
not propagate on to the back wall, while in case (4), the wave is reflected off a lesser
depth of the wall.

Figure 8. Schematic depicting the use of pulse-echo technique
Source: Prof. A. F. Grandt, Jr., Course notes, Purdue University, 2000
Reflections from corners and edges, as well as from reinforcement should be accounted
for in the analysis. Frequency domain analysis is sometimes performed in order to
account for multiple reflections between the surface and interface (flaw or back wall). A
fast Fourier transform (FFT) is used to convert time domain pulses into frequency
domain data. The discussion of frequency domain analysis is beyond the scope of this
Since the exact location of defects can be pinpointed using the impact- and pulse-echo
techniques, a comprehensive 3-D mapping of defects is possible by doing area scans, as
shown in Figure 9. In this figure, both linear scan and area scan are shown. In the area
scan, the different shades represent different reflection times.

Figure 9. Scanning with the pulse echo technique
Source: Prof. A. F. Grandt, Jr., Course notes, 2000
Some limitations of this technique are that defects lying under other defects are not easy
to detect. Also, reflections from sides, edges, and corners can confuse the data. A
sufficient difference in acoustic impedance between the two media is necessary.
Spectral analysis of surface waves (SASW)
Surface waves consist of a spectrum of frequency (or wavelength) components. The
penetration depth of these components is proportional to the wavelength. The speed of
these waves depends on the elastic properties of the material that they are traveling
through. Thus, when surface waves travel through a layered structure, such as a
pavement, they get dispersed, i.e. break up into various components. Using various
geometries of receiving transducers, all these components can be collected and analyzed
using a signal processor. One can draw an analogy to white light, which is also made up
of different wavelength components, each component representing a different colour.
A schematic of the SASW technique is shown in Figure 10. A hammer generates the
impact. Two transducers are placed at various distances to receive the signal and relay
it to the spectral analyzer. The spectral analyzer performs complicated signal
processing and generates stiffness profiles for the various layers depending on the wave
speeds. A limitation of this technique is that it can work well only for layered strata,
where there is a substantial difference between material properties. Reflections from
boundaries and corners can also lead to problems in analysis.
A scenario of SASW application is presented in Figure 11. Two concrete specimens are
investigated. The first one is of good quality, while the second concrete has a
deteriorated layer underneath the sound layer. The resultant dispersion curves clearly
indicate the depth of distress in the concrete.

Figure 10. Spectral Analysis of Surface Waves technique
Source: N. Krstulovic-Opara et al., "Nondestructive Testing of Concrete Structures
Using the Rayleigh Wave Dispersion Method," ACI Materials Journal, V. 93, No. 1,
Jan-Feb 1996, pp. 75-85.

Figure 11. Application of SASW to detect the depth of deterioration
Source: M. E. Kalinski et al., "Nondestructive Identification of Internally Damaged
Areas of Concrete Beam Using the Spectral Analysis of Surface Waves Method,"
Transportation Research Record, No. 1458, Dec 1994, pp. 14-19.

Acoustic emission
When cracks grow inside a material, there is a change in free energy. Due to the
creation of a new surface, energy is released. This release may be in the form of heat or
sound. Sound bursts emanating from growing cracks can be detected by the means of
sensitive transducers. As shown in Figure 12, using well-placed sensors, the location of
the crack growth can also be determined.

Figure 12. Placement of sensors in acoustic emission

A severe shortcoming of this technique is that it is extremely sensitive to any external
sound disturbances. The other problem is that only growing cracks can be detected.
Thus, it is quite a useful tool for early detection of growing shrinkage cracks.
Other NDE methods
Infrared thermography
The detection of heat flow through a body can indicate the presence of flaws or defects.
In the infrared thermography technique, heat is passed through the material, and an
infrared detector detects the heat patterns emanating from the body. As shown in
Figure 13, when a defect is present in the body, it would show up as a cold spot when
heat is flowing inward, and as a cold spot when the heat is flowing outward.

Figure 13. Application of infrared thermography technique

This technique is very useful in detecting delaminations in bridge decks. Complete
thermal scan of the bridge deck may be obtained to identify defective areas. The
limitations of this technique are that its accuracy is somewhat limited to the near-
surface areas, and the application necessitates the presence of clement weather. Also,
surface conditions might have a bearing on the result.
Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR)
The various radar techniques are ground-penetrating radar, impulse radar, or short-
pulse radar. The principle of radar detection is similar to that of ultrasonic pulse-echo
techniques. The speed of radio waves traveling in materials depends on the relative
dielectric constant of the material. Thus, when a layered system is present, radio waves,
while traveling from one medium to the next, can get reflected or transmitted based
upon the difference in properties of the media.
The applications of this technique are in detecting rebar location, pavement thickness,
asphalt overlay thickness, and voids beneath pavements. The presence of water
increases the visibility of defects. However, the rebars can cause interference in the
signal. The presence of chloride ions in moist concrete increases the signal attenuation.
When the technique is used to determine rebar diameter, complex image reconstruction
methods are employed.
Electromagnetic techniques
In concrete, electromagnetic techniques are typically used to detect the depth of rebar
(in other words, concrete cover over rebar). As shown in Figure 14, this can be done by
(1) measurement of magnetic reluctance, (2) Eddy current techniques, or (3) Radar.

Figure 14. Determination of concrete cover using electromagnetic techniques

In the magnetic reluctance method, the presence of rebar increases the electromagnetic
flux in the U-magnet and this is detected by the meter. In the Eddy current technique,
the magnetic field in a coil (which is a part of the Eddy current probe) induces Eddy
currents in the rebar. This Eddy current generates a magnetic field of its own that
interferes with the main magnetic field. The change in inductance of the coil is then
measured using the meter. Such probes are commonly used for rebar locating devices
such as the Pachometer. A schematic diagram showing the use of a Pachometer is
shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Use of a Pachometer for detecting steel in concrete

Eddy current techniques are also widely used to test defective metallic elements.
Another electromagnetic technique called the magnetic particle method can also be used
for conductive metallic elements. In the technique, a magnetic field is applied using a
coil to the test piece. Magnetic particles (such as iron filings) are then sprinkled upon
the test piece. These particles line up along surface cracks that are perpendicular to the
orientation of the applied magnetic field. This makes visual detection of the surface
cracks possible. One obvious limitation of these techniques is that they are limited to
surface defects.
Dye penetration
The visibility of surface cracks in metallic and non-metallic elements can be increased
by penetrating a fluorescent dye into these cracks, and then observing the element
under black (UV) light. This technique can also be used when cut sections of concrete
are studied under a microscope in order to clearly indicate the voids and defects.
In radiography, X-rays or neutrons are passed through the test object, and the resultant
image is captured on a film. This film is then studied to find the location of defects. The
transmittance of X-rays or neutrons depends on the density of the material. Defective
areas will show a larger transmittance. Radiography can be used to obtain a 360 degree
image reconstruction, with techniques such as the CAT (computerized axial
tomography) scan, which are commonly used in medical studies. Internal flaws are easy
to detect using radiography.
One major limitation of using radiography is the hazards associated with such
techniques. They can be used effectively only if the source can be placed out of contact
with the operator. Such can be the case for example in pipes, where the source can be
placed inside the pipe, and the film outside. Another limitation is the extremely high
costs associated with these techniques.