Contact acoustic nonlinearity (CAN)-based continuous monitoring of bolt loosening: Hybrid use of high-order harmonics and spectral sidebands

Zhen Zhang, Menglong Liu, Yaozhong Liao, Zhongqing Su, Yi Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


The significance of evaluating bolt tightness in engineering structures, preferably in a continuous manner, cannot be overemphasized. With hybrid use of high-order harmonics (HOH) and spectral sidebands, a contact acoustic nonlinearity (CAN)-based monitoring framework is developed for detecting bolt loosening and subsequently evaluating the residual torque on a loose bolt. Low-frequency pumping vibration is introduced into the bolted joint to produce a “breathing” effect at the joining interface that modulates the propagation characteristics of a high-frequency probing wave when it traverses the bolt, leading to the generation of HOH and vibro-acoustic nonlinear distortions (manifested as sidebands in the signal spectrum). To gain insight into the mechanism of CAN generation and to correlate the acquired nonlinear responses of a loose joint with the residual torque remaining on the bolt, an analytical model based on micro-contact theory is established. Two types of nonlinear index, respectively exploiting the induced HOH and spectral sidebands, are defined without dependence on excitation intensity and are experimentally demonstrated to be effective in continuously monitoring bolt loosening in both aluminum-aluminum and composite-composite bolted joints. Taking a step further, variation of the index pair is quantitatively associated with the residual torque on a loose bolt. The approach developed provides a reliable method of continuous evaluation of bolt tightness in both composite and metallic joints, regardless of their working conditions, from early awareness of bolt loosening at an embryonic stage to quantitative estimation of residual torque.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-294
Number of pages15
JournalMechanical Systems and Signal Processing
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018


  • Bolt loosening
  • Bolted joint
  • High-order harmonic
  • Nonlinear distortion
  • Structural health monitoring
  • Vibro-acoustic modulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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