U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-036
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The Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Center was established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1998 in an effort to centralize and better coordinate research related to nondestructive testing. Since its establishment, the center has acted as a resource to the FHWA and States for information and expertise on nondestructive testing tools and technologies. Researchers at the center develop and evaluate NDE technologies that can be used to assess the condition of highway bridges. This assessment includes evaluating current technologies and developing new tools that will advance the practice of bridge inspection.
A goal for the NDE Center is to provide advanced NDE research within the context of an integrated view of highway facilities that include bridges, pavements, and other structures such as culverts, retaining walls, and tunnels. The key aspect of this vision is to augment the research focus to not only the internal elements of the highway bridge but also to global structural health monitoring (SHM) so that the bridge is viewed as a component in the overall highway system.
The NDE Center is staffed with a multidisciplinary team of experts working on tools and techniques to assess the condition of in-service highway bridges and bridges under construction. Laboratory researchers work closely with State transportation departments throughout the United States to identify and solve inspection challenges.
Areas of research at the laboratory include ultrasonic testing methods for steel and concrete, ground penetrating radar (GPR), passive and active infrared thermography, fatigue crack detection and assessment methods, magnetic flux leakage, radiography, noninvasive measurement of girder deflections, and electromagnetic NDE techniques. Researchers also develop nonlinear finite element models of bridge structures and components using parallel supercomputers as an aid to understanding optimal application of NDE technologies.
The center is comprised of a laboratory that is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments to help researchers develop and test NDE tools. The laboratory also has access to shared resources with the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center Structures Laboratory, including a structural load floor and mechanical testing equipment. In addition to laboratory resources, the center has local in-service test bridges, and it develops instrumentation and devices.
The laboratory is equipped with a number of commercial NDE tools as well as specialized instrumentation used to assess bridge structures. Some of the laboratory and field equipment include the following:
Additional capabilities of the laboratory include the following:
Specimens and outdoor testing facilities at the laboratory include the following:
Working with State transportation departments, the NDE Center has developed many methods and tools to assess the condition of highway bridges. For example, the center recently completed phase I of a research program to assess technologies to monitor and detect fatigue cracks in steel highway bridges.
The laboratory has also developed a hands-on training course to expose State transportation department personnel to commercially available NDE instruments. Known as the Bridge Inspector NDE Showcase (BINS), the course seeks to familiarize bridge inspectors with various NDE tools. The FHWA NDE Web Manual supplements this training with a fundamental understanding of NDE tools. As a result of BINS and the NDE Web Manual, updates will likely be provided to the National Highway Institute's (NHI) Bridge Inspector's Reference Manual and other inspection-related courses offered by the NHI.(1)
The laboratory is active in a number of areas related to the inspection of steel bridges including the following:
The laboratory is also performing the following research on concrete bridge inspection technologies to advance current critical inspection practices:
The laboratory is also conducting the following research in areas of load rating and SHM:
Finally, the laboratory is performing the following technology transfer and outreach efforts related to NDE technology:
The NDE Center has partnerships and cooperative agreements with several organizations as follows:
Program Manager, FHWA NDE Center
Telephone: (202) 493-3082