Jiang uses funding to change how concrete is analyzed

June 18, 2018
Dr. Hanwan Jiang

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – With the help of an applied research grant from WiSys Technology Foundation and the UW System, Dr. Hanwan Jiang, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is hoping to develop a device that could change the way engineers examine the structural integrity of bridges. Her project focuses on using ultrasound waves and three-dimensional imaging to detect interior cracks.

Jiang’s work, which she began in graduate school, builds upon the coda-wave interferometry theory. This theory focuses on how the depth, position and frequency of cracks affect concrete structures. With the support from WiSys and the UW System, Jiang will work toward developing an instrument that tests for these cracks by using ultrasound waves.

“I am excited to be granted funding to purchase the device I need to facilitate and proceed with my research,” Jiang said. “The device will use ultrasound to test internal cracks and defects within concrete structures. I intend to image the internal structures that cannot be seen from the surface. Sometimes the cracks come from the internal structure rather than being on the surface. However, we can’t be certain. This device will give the user a better understanding of the damage level of the structure.”

This project aids the field of engineering by providing an alternative approach to the way that bridges are tested. Ultrasounds are already utilized in the civil engineering field, however the ultrasounds are currently being used for the waves in coherent regime. This method of testing has proved effective on uniform materials such as steel. Jiang is interested in looking at the late arriving part of waves that ultrasounds scatter multiple times in concrete resulting in higher sensitivity. Concrete structures lack uniformity and face many variables because it is normally cast on site.

“The traditional way of testing doesn’t pay close enough attention to the minor cracks,” Jiang said. “The cracks that we are targeting are about .05 to .1 millimeters wide. The cracks found can be thinner than a strand of hair. The waves will bounce within the material, and we will record the data that the waves create rather than look at a single wave. The waves will travel longer paths so it is more sensitive to the changes in the material.”

Jiang’s experience in the transportation industry includes analyzing concrete structures and recognizing that the current method of analysis is out of date. While working for 10 years in the industry with different contractors, Jiang recognized the need for an objective approach.

“The industry relies heavily on the visual inspection of structures, which causes a subjective approach,” Jiang said. “With technology developing so fast, we need to apply more to civil engineering. Some of the contractors that I have worked with have commented on how we still use a visual inspection rather than a device.”

Jiang’s goal to create this instrument requires knowledge from a number of engineering disciplines. She is collaborating with a colleague from New Mexico State University, and she is looking for three undergraduate student researchers to assist with the project’s development. Because of the interdisciplinary aspect, she hopes to recruit students from the civil, electrical and software engineering majors.

The Applied Research-WiSys Technology Advancement Grant program selects grants for funding based on technical merit, quality of research design, likelihood of successful completion and the potential impact the project may have on Wisconsin’s economy.


Written by: Dalton Miles, Student Writer, Communications, milesda@uwplatt.edu

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