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Smart Structures and Systems
  Volume 15, Number 1, January 2015 , pages 135-150

An exploratory study of stress wave communication in concrete structures
Qing Ji, Michael Ho, Rong Zheng, Zhi Ding and Gangbing Song

    Large concrete structures are prone to cracks and damages over time from human usage, weathers, and other environmental attacks such as flood, earthquakes, and hurricanes. The health of the concrete structures should be monitored regularly to ensure safety. A reliable method of real time communications can facilitate more frequent structural health monitoring (SHM) updates from hard to reach positions, enabling crack detections of embedded concrete structures as they occur to avoid catastrophic failures. By implementing an unconventional mode of communication that utilizes guided stress waves traveling along the concrete structure itself, we may be able to free structural health monitoring from costly (re-)installation of communication wires. In stress-wave communications, piezoelectric transducers can act as actuators and sensors to send and receive modulated signals carrying concrete status information. The new generation of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) based smart aggregates cause multipath propagation in the homogeneous concrete channel, which presents both an opportunity and a challenge for multiple sensors communication. We propose a time reversal based pulse position modulation (TR-PPM) communication for stress wave communication within the concrete structure to combat multipath channel dispersion. Experimental results demonstrate successful transmission and recovery of TR-PPM using stress waves. Compared with PPM, we can achieve higher data rate and longer link distance via TR-PPM. Furthermore, TR-PPM remains effective under low signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. This work also lays the foundation for implementing multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) stress wave communication networks in concrete channels.
Key Words
    SHM; stress wave communication; smart aggregate; time reversal; PPM; TR-PPM
Qing Ji:Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
Michael Ho: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
Rong Zheng: Department of Computing and Software, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Zhi Ding: Department of Electrical Engineering, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA
Gangbing Song: Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA;
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

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