Distributed strain measurement in steel bridge with fiber optic sensors: Validation through diagnostic load test

Fabio Matta, Filippo Bastianini, Nestore Galati, Paolo Casadei, Antonio Nanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Fiber optic sensing technologies are emerging as valid alternatives for the health monitoring of civil structures. Distributed sensors based on Brillouin scattering add the unique capability of measuring strain and temperature profiles along optical fibers. Measurement is performed by establishing the correlation between fiber strain and temperature, and the frequency shift of the Brillouin backscattered light induced by a monochromatic light pulse. The technology holds potential for use on large structures and integrated transportation infrastructure. Its effectiveness has been assessed through scaled laboratory experiments, whereas field validation is limited to very few demonstration projects conducted to date. This paper presents a pilot application of Brillouin optical time domain reflectometry to measure strain profiles along the steel girders of a continuous slab-on-girder bridge subjected to diagnostic load testing. One of the exterior continuous girders required heat-straightening after falling during construction due to wind. The significance of applying a distributed measurement technique lies in the potential to assess the global girder response, which would be impractical and uneconomical using discrete measurement techniques. A 1.16 km long sensing circuit was installed onto the web of four girders. The circuit comprises bare optical fiber sensors, and a novel adhesively bonded fiberglass tape with embedded sensing fibers for strain measurement and thermal compensation. The strain profiles were first converted into deflection profiles and validated against discrete deflection measurements performed with a high-precision total station system. Structural assessment based on comparison of the strain profiles with the results of three-dimensional finite-element analysis of the bridge superstructure, and with specification mandated criteria, indicated that the response of the girder under investigation was within the design limits, and did not pose serviceability concerns. Factors that may affect measurement accuracy are finally discussed on the basis of the experimental and numerical results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-273
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Performance of Constructed Facilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 28 2008


  • Assessments
  • Bridge tests
  • Bridges, steel
  • Fiber optics
  • Sensors
  • Strain measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Distributed strain measurement in steel bridge with fiber optic sensors: Validation through diagnostic load test'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this