Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Nehdi, Moncef


Applications of nondestructive testing (NDT) technologies have shown promise in assessing the condition of existing concrete bridges. Infrared thermography (IRT) has gradually gained wider acceptance as a NDT and evaluation tool in the civil engineering field. The high capability of IRT in detecting subsurface delamination, commercial availability of infrared cameras, lower cost compared with other technologies, speed of data collection, and remote sensing are some of the expected benefits of applying this technique in bridge deck inspection practices. The research conducted in this thesis aims at developing a rational condition assessment system for concrete bridge decks based on IRT technology, and automating its analysis process in order to add this invaluable technique to the bridge inspector’s tool box. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) has also been vastly recognized as a NDT technique capable of evaluating the potential of active corrosion. Therefore, integrating IRT and GPR results in this research provides more precise assessments of bridge deck conditions. In addition, the research aims to establish a unique link between NDT technologies and inspector findings by developing a novel bridge deck condition rating index (BDCI). The proposed procedure captures the integrated results of IRT and GPR techniques, along with visual inspection judgements, thus overcoming the inherent scientific uncertainties of this process. Finally, the research aims to explore the potential application of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) infrared thermography for detecting hidden defects in concrete bridge decks.

The NDT work in this thesis was conducted on full-scale deteriorated reinforced concrete bridge decks located in Montreal, Quebec and London, Ontario. The proposed models have been validated through various case studies. IRT, either from the ground or by utilizing a UAV with high-resolution thermal infrared imagery, was found to be an appropriate technology for inspecting and precisely detecting subsurface anomalies in concrete bridge decks. The proposed analysis produced thermal mosaic maps from the individual IR images. The k-means clustering classification technique was utilized to segment the mosaics and identify objective thresholds and, hence, to delineate different categories of delamination severity in the entire bridge decks. The proposed integration methodology of NDT technologies and visual inspection results provided more reliable BDCI. The information that was sought to identify the parameters affecting the integration process was gathered from bridge engineers with extensive experience and intuition. The analysis process utilized the fuzzy set theory to account for uncertainties and imprecision in the measurements of bridge deck defects detected by IRT and GPR testing along with bridge inspector observations.

The developed system and models should stimulate wider acceptance of IRT as a rapid, systematic and cost-effective evaluation technique for detecting bridge deck delaminations. The proposed combination of IRT and GPR results should expand their correlative use in bridge deck inspection. Integrating the proposed BDCI procedure with existing bridge management systems can provide a detailed and timely picture of bridge health, thus helping transportation agencies in identifying critical deficiencies at various service life stages. Consequently, this can yield sizeable reductions in bridge inspection costs, effective allocation of limited maintenance and repair funds, and promote the safety, mobility, longevity, and reliability of our highway transportation assets.