Thermal Effects on Monitoring and Performance of Reinforced Concrete Structures
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Much of North America’s reinforced concrete infrastructure is reaching the end of its service life and careful inspection and assessment is required to ensure the appropriate capacity is maintained in these structures. The research conducted herein seeks to further the development of two new sensor technologies: fibre optic strain sensors and digital image correlation, which have the potential to provide comprehensive performance data for structures to a level of accuracy previously not possible. The research involves determining the accuracy of these sensor systems to monitor both strain and crack widths in reinforced concrete compared to conventional techniques, such as electrical resistance strain gauges. Preliminary work was also undertaken on correcting the sensor results for temperature. It was determined that temperature variations in the range of +21 °C to 20 °C, result in significant strain errors for both sensor systems. Once the results obtained from the sensors systems are corrected for temperature, crack widths are monitored in four small-scale reinforced concrete tension specimens, and strain and crack width behaviour is monitored in four full-scale beams under four point bending. One of the major problems faced when using the digital image correlation technique is out of plane movement which results in significant error. Techniques to lower this error are addressed. In addition, obtaining a more robust understanding of the effects of temperature on crack widths, stiffness, strength and short term creep behaviour of reinforced concrete elements is explored to improve structural monitoring and numerical models used for analysis. Four full-scale beams, two at room temperature and two at 20 °C, were loaded to failure under four point bending. A comparison of the room temperature and low temperature test results show that the cracks tend to close up at lower temperatures in members that are free to expand and contract. This behaviour results in a potential increase in shear capacity for beams at lower temperatures. The low temperature beams also saw a minor increase in strength, but saw no noticeable increase in stiffness. Lastly, short term creep behaviour was reduced in the low temperature beams once the formation of ice occurred.