Can Advances in Mobile Technologies lead to Smart Concrete?
Roxanna Coulon posted on August 29, 2014 |
Mobile monitoring of fresh and hardened concrete can save the construction industry time, money, and...

Future embedded sensors will make concrete
infrastructure smart

Giatec XCell – A smart tablet-based corrosion probe
The deterioration of aging infrastructure such as bridges and highways is a potentially fatal danger to the public safety.  It also imposes billions of dollars of repair and maintenance costs on governments and owners.

Recent advancements in sensing tools and analysis solutions are aiming to resolve these challenges. Mobile technology now exists that allows the quality of concrete to be tested while in transit. Additionally, emerging technologies can quickly and easily test the potential for corrosion in reinforced concrete structures. These mobile solutions would ensure that new concrete is of excellent quality and would indicate what portions of old concrete structures need repairs or replacement, and when.

For example, Verifi is a truck-mounted device that enables constant monitoring of concrete while it is in transit. This technology is capable of measuring temperature and slump (a parameter indicating the workability) of the concrete, as well as how many times the truck's drum has turned. Verifi's real-time analysis algorithms calculate the required amounts of water or admixture to be adjusted in the mix. All this is done without the need for manual slump tests.

For concrete that is already in place, Giatec XCell represents a way to monitor deterioration.  Corrosion of steel is a major cause of deterioration in concrete structures. Giatec XCell a portable NDT (non-destructive testing) probe that measures the corrosion potential of rebar in concrete. It uses an advanced Bluetooth-enabled sensor that wirelessly sends the measurements to a tablet. The data is then displayed as a corrosion map in real-time. This allows the user to identify areas of the structure that require repair onsite. These half-cell contour maps and the measurements can be shared with the engineering office via e-mail, Bluetooth, or Dropbox. Giatec XCell is designed to reduce the labour cost associated with data collection and the subsequent contour plot generation and reporting.


Of course, it would be even better if sensors were embedded in concrete while it is being mixed. In that way, the concrete's quality, temperature, and consistency could be monitored. Once the concrete sets, the sensors could stay in place and enable structures (such as buildings, bridges, or highways) to sense changes in material quality and structural integrity, and then provide notification for repair or replacement.

Smart Structure's SmartPile system currently allows sensor packs to be embedded in concrete piles and then connected to a DataPort. The sensor packs are made up of an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, and a strain sensor. This allows SmartPile's system to measure the quality of concrete throughout every stage, from curing to transportation to installation.

The typical setup of the SmartPile system


Wireless devices are inescapable, and with good reason. Wirelessly enabled field devices decrease the amount of time spent inputting data and analyzing it, while also increasing shareability. Cutting costs, saving time, and increasing productivity: there's an app for that.


About the Author
Roxanna Coulon works at Giatec Scientific in the marketing and sales department.

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