Standard Article

Noncontact Rail Monitoring by Ultrasonic Guided Waves

Other Applications

  1. Piervincenzo Rizzo1,
  2. Stefano Coccia2,
  3. Ivan Bartoli2,
  4. Francesco Lanza di Scalea2

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470061626.shm041

Encyclopedia of Structural Health Monitoring

Encyclopedia of Structural Health Monitoring

How to Cite

Rizzo, P., Coccia, S., Bartoli, I. and di Scalea, F. L. 2009. Noncontact Rail Monitoring by Ultrasonic Guided Waves. Encyclopedia of Structural Health Monitoring. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Pittsburgh, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

  2. 2

    University of California, Department of Structural Engineering, San Diego, CA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


Recent train accidents have reaffirmed the need for developing more effective rail defect detection systems than those used today. One of the recent developments in rail inspection is the use of ultrasonic guided waves and noncontact probing techniques to target transverse-type defects. Besides the obvious advantages of noncontact probing, which include robustness and potential for large inspection speed, such a system can theoretically detect transverse defects under horizontal shelling or head checks. A rail inspection prototype based on these concepts and funded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is under development at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The first field test was carried out in March 2006. The second field test took place in April 2007. This article first presents the main aspects of ultrasonic guided-wave inspection of rails, including wave propagation modeling and noncontact ultrasound probing. The discussion then focuses on the UCSD/FRA prototype and its defect detection performance as determined in both laboratory tests and field tests.


  • noncontact ultrasonic testing;
  • laser ultrasonics;
  • damage detection;
  • railroad tracks;
  • signal processing