Nondestructive evaluation of reinforced concrete via infrared thermography: a feasibility study

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Virginia Tech

An experimental investigation was conducted to develop a laboratory technique for the nondestructive evaluation of reinforced concrete. The methodologies were developed with the intent of eventual field implementation to determine the feasibility of utilizing infrared thermography to inspect substructural elements of concrete bridges.

Several specimen configurations were fabricated for thermographic inspection. A number of tests were performed on a variety of concrete specimens to determine the implementation parameters of the technique. The necessity of utilizing artificial heating methods for thermal input prior to inspection was evaluated.

The present study suggests that infrared thermography cannot be applied to substructural elements of bridges in a noncontact fashion. Internal thermal gradients produced by diurnal temperature fluctuation generally are not sufficient to produce the variations in surface temperature patterns necessary for thermographically detecting nonvisual subsurface defects. Rather, both the envelopment and artificial heating of the substructural element is required prior to thermographic inspection.