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
NDE is a means of analyzing and assessing the condition of various structural components of inservice highway infrastructure assets—pavement, bridges, and tunnels—without impairing their future usefulness.
The mission of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) NDE Laboratory is to conduct state-of-the-art research, development, and implementation of nondestructive testing systems and technologies to improve the Nation’s highway infrastructure assets. Since its establishment in 1998, the NDE Laboratory has been maintained as an open resource for the FHWA, State departments of transportation (DOTs), industry, and academia. The NDE Laboratory fulfills the need for unbiased expertise to evaluate emerging NDE technologies, as well as data analysis, fusion, and interpretation.
The NDE Laboratory is a world-class facility for the development and testing of NDE technologies. FHWA has recently renovated and upgraded the NDE Laboratory with state-of-the-art NDE tools to address the growing needs of FHWA and other stakeholders.
Figure 1. Image. Artist’s rendition of the NDE Laboratory.
The primary laboratory facility is a 9.4- by 8-meter facility (figures 1 and 2) with new equipment and tools, including a KUKA robotic arm (KR10-$1100 titan) with a payload of 10 kg to handle test specimens, NDE equipment such as a phased array ultrasonic testing system for steel component inspection, and ground penetrating radar for concrete inspection.
Journal and Conference Papers
Arlington Memorial Bridge
In response to a request on February 2015 by the FHWA Eastern Federal Lands (EFL) office and the National Park Service (NPS), the FHWA NDE Laboratory in close coordination with the Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) Program, provided technical assistance and evaluated the condition of the deck of the Arlington Memorial Bridge (AMB) using the RABIT™ bridge deck condition assessment robot and other advanced NDE technologies. The evaluation included condition evaluation and assessment of the deck with respect to:
FHWA EFL was briefed about the findings of the AMB testing and evaluation. Maintenance and management alternatives and recommendations were discussed in the briefing.
Yerba Buena Tunnel
In January 2016, a chunk of concrete from the tunnel liner fell into the travel way of the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel. In response to this event, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) immediately conducted an indepth visual inspection and sounding of the tunnel lining walls and identified additional areas of distress. This issue has raised Caltrans Management’s concern about the public's confidence in using the tunnel. Because of the sensitivity of this issue, Caltrans requested that the FHWA provide an independent evaluation of their assessment of the tunnel lining condition. To support FHWA’s work, Caltrans provided traffic control and the equipment needed to access the tunnel lining (e.g. bucket lifts to access the top 5 feet of the tunnel walls).
To assist Caltrans to validate their sounding results, the FHWA team conducted comprehensive non-destructive testing using different NDE techniques on the eastbound side of the Yerba Buena Tunnel, including:
The FHWA NDE Laboratory initiated the development of the NDE Web Manual, a Web tool for assisting bridge practitioners with the proper selection of NDE technologies for the condition assessment of bridge decks and superstructures. This manual, a product of an FHWA Strategic Initiative project, presents a comprehensive selection and descriptionof NDE technologies to fill a gap between the practitioners dealing with bridge performance challenges on a day-to-day basis and the researchers developing and refining NDE technologies. This version of the NDE Web Manual presents current, unbiased, and reliable information about NDE technologies for concrete and steel bridge members, including the application, description, physical principle, data acquisition, data processing, data interpretation, advantages, and limitations of each NDE technology. Future versions of the NDE Web Manual would include information about applications of NDE tools for bridge substructures, tunnels, and pavements.
FHWA Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring Workshop
In June 2016, the FHWA convened a diverse group of experts at the National Academies of Science to develop, discuss, and debate future research directions for existing and emerging assessment technologies (inclusive of both nondestructive evaluation (NDE) and structural health monitoring (SHM)).
Motivation and Objectives
From a broad perspective, the first overarching aim of the workshop was to begin to foster communication and collaboration between the end-users of NDE/SHM technologies and the researchers that are engaged in their development and refinement. The second overarching goal of this workshop was to bring NDE and SHM communities together to promote and identify opportunities for the integration of NDE and SHM.
In addition to these broad objectives, the following more detailed goals were also identified to ensure tangible products that may make near-term impacts on the field.
Summary of Key Workshop Outcomes
Foster Ongoing Government-Industry-Academe Collaboration—Throughout the workshop a strong consensus emerged that the integration of end-user and research perspectives together with collaboration between NDE and SHM researchers is essential to moving the use of assessment technologies forward. To maintain the momentum developed during the workshop, it was strongly recommended that FHWA work to develop a diverse government-industry-academe working group that meets regularly to continue to debate and discuss the issues surrounding NDE and SHM research and implementation. Although there are several NDE- and SHM-focused committees at numerous professional societies, none include the auspices of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Bridges and Structures. This was viewed as a significant shortcoming.
SHM Guidance—Recommendations for SHM guidance were developed through breakout sessions, discussed during open sessions, and then ranked through a poll of the workshop participants. The top three recommended forms of guidance were:
NDE Research Roadmap—Recommendations for specific NDE research topics were developed through breakout sessions, discussed during open sessions, and then ranked through a poll of the workshop participants. The top six research topics were:
FHWA has recently renovated and upgraded the NDE Laboratory to address the growing research needs of stakeholders. Current expertise at the laboratory includes: conventional/phased array ultrasonic testing; conventional/advanced eddy current testing; acoustic emission; ground penetrating radar testing; infrared thermography testing; impact echo testing; surface wave testing; SHM systems; noncontact and remote sensing; numerical simulation; automated data collection, analysis, interpretation, visualization and data fusion. In conjunction with this expertise, an extensive collection of concrete/steel specimens and commercial test equipment are available at the NDE Laboratory.
The NDE laboratory conducts state-of-the-art research, development, improvement and implementation of NDE systems and technologies to assist infrastructure owners. This work includes condition assessment of inservice tunnels, pavements, and bridges, as well as providing technical assistance and forensic investigation services in examining the nature and causes of anomalies or failures of highway infrastructure assets.
The NDE Laboratory maintains an extensive collection of commercial and emerging test equipment. Click here for a more detailed list.
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Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
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