The seismic monitoring of masonry structures is especially challenging due to their brittle resistance behavior. A tailored sensing system could, in principle, help to detect and locate cracks and anticipate the risks of local and global collapses, allowing prompt interventions and ensuring users’ safety. Unfortunately, off-the-shelf sensors do not meet the criteria that are needed for this purpose, due to their durability issues, costs and extensive maintenance requirements. As a possible solution for earthquake-induced damage detection and localization in masonry structures, the authors have recently introduced the novel sensing technology of “smart bricks”, that are clay bricks with self-sensing capabilities, whose electromechanical properties have been already characterized in previous work. The bricks are fabricated by doping traditional clay with conductive stainless steel microfibers, enhancing the electrical sensitivity of the material to strain. If placed at key locations within the structure, this technology permits to detect and locate permanent changes in deformation under dead loading conditions, associated to a change in structural conditions following an earthquake. In this way, a quick post-earthquake assessment of the monitored structure can be achieved, at lower costs and with lower maintenance requirements in comparison to traditional sensors.
In this paper, the authors further investigate the electro-mechanical behavior of smart bricks, with a specific attention to the fabrication of the electrodes, and exemplify their application for damage detection and localization in a full-scale shaking table test on a masonry building specimen. Experimental results show that smart bricks’ outputs can effectively allow the detection of local permanent changes in deformation following a progressive damage, as also confirmed by a 3D finite element simulation carried out for validation purposes.
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