Nonlinear autoregression-based non-destructive evaluation approach for railway tracks using an ultrasonic fiber bragg grating array

Da Zhi Dang, You Wu Wang, Yi Qing Ni

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The safe operation of railway systems relies on rapid and accurate non-destructive damage detection and evaluation techniques to help rule out potential threats brought by rail track damages. In this paper, an innovative fiber Bragg grating (FBG) array-based sensing system is developed for rail defect inspection by integrating the ultrasonic testing technology, and a nonlinear autoregressive neural network with exogenous inputs (NARX) is proposed for rail damage detection based on measured ultrasonic signals. The developed sensing system can realize the high-speed and multiplexed ultrasonic signals demodulation. The NARX is proposed to process the ultrasonic signals obtained by the developed sensing system, and a specified probabilistic damage sensitive feature (DSF) is tailored to indicate rail health status, derived from the probability density function (PDF) of NARX prediction errors. To verify the proposed sensing system and damage identification algorithm, experimental studies considering four rail conditions (i.e., intact, cracked, bump, and welded conditions) are conducted in this study. First, baseline NARX models are priorly trained using ultrasonic signals acquired on an intact rail segment; then, DSFs corresponding to each condition are calculated enabling effective rail damage diagnosis. To optimize the training parameters of NARX models, three different training functions are utilized to select the most appropriate parameters that are sensitive to rail damages. Last, large-scale testing is conducted, further proving the applicability and reliability of the proposed rail damage evaluation approach. Through this study, it is suggested that integrating high-performance sensing technologies with effective data processing tools would maximumly enable efficient and robust non-destructive testing, especially on important infrastructures such as rails.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134728
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2024


  • Fiber Bragg grating array
  • Non-destructive evaluation
  • Nonlinear autoregression
  • Rail damage detection
  • Ultrasonic testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • General Materials Science


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