Damage Detection of Railway Tracks based on Vibration Measurements by Moving Laser Sensors

Physical Sciences : Civil Engineering

Available for licensing


  • Salvatore Salamone, Ph.D. , Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
  • Korkut Kaynardag , Phil M Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory

Background/unmet need

Railway transportation plays a key role in mass transportation of products and passengers. Consequently, the safety of human lives and the economy of many countries strongly depend on this type of transportation. For this reason, government transportation agencies and railway companies have been putting significant effort towards safety and uninterrupted operation of railway roads. One of the biggest problems that endanger safety and operation of railways is the fractural cracks of the railway tracks. Even though ultrasonic measurement techniques have been extensively used for detection of such defects, these methods may show inefficiencies. Therefore, vibration measurements can be used as alternative method or can be combined with ultrasonic measurement for better accuracy of detection of such defects.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin developed a method and system that consists of one or multiple non-contact laser Doppler vibrometers in order to measure the dynamic vibrations of railway tracks. Laboratory tests demonstrated that a crack causes changes in dynamic response parameters of tracks. By observing these changes, the location of damage is detected.


    Current state of art to detect cracks in railway tracks is based on ultrasonic measurements. However, the quality of measurements can perform insufficiently due to small artificial cracks close to surface of tracks. On the other hand, vibration measurements are recorded from surface of the tracks. Consequently, the quality of measurements are not affected by artificial cracks.


    Modal parameters of the tracks are obtained with moving non-contact laser sensors, providing a rapid assessment of a large structure with one or a few sensors. 

Market potential/applications

 Government transportation departments, railway companies.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 PCT patent application filed