Applicability and limitations of time domain reflectometry bridge scour monitoring system in general field conditions

Kai Wang, Chih-Ping Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A real-time and durable system for scour process monitoring with sufficient spatial precision is in pressing need for bridge safety management. In light of this, an innovative bundled time domain reflectometry sensing cable was recently proposed to enhance the time domain reflectometry technique for scour monitoring. However, current development only dealt with the construction of bundled sensing cable and the corresponding new data reduction method. Before it can be put into practical use, issues related to the effect of hydrological conditions, long-distance measurement, and actual field implementation are yet to be investigated. This study used both numerical simulations and laboratory experiments to examine the time domain reflectometry signals in response to both scour and deposition in different water-level conditions. As a result, the first guideline of waveform classification and interpretation is newly proposed to validly determine scour depth under various field conditions. Since field measurements often come with significant signal attenuation from resistance loss of long cable and dielectric and conductive loss in the sensing section, numerical simulations and a series of full-scale experiments were also conducted to assess the time domain reflectometry scour measurement range. The maximum measurement range of the latest time domain reflectometry scour sensing cable was found to be about 6 m. Within this range, the maximum error of scour estimation is within 0.2 m. Considering the new findings, a field time domain reflectometry scour monitoring system using the bundled time domain reflectometry sensing cable was designed accordingly and implemented at a bridge for the first time. The monitoring system successfully captured the scour process during a storm event and revealed some practical issues for future improvement as well.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1475921720944587
Number of pages16
JournalStructural health monitoring-An international journal
StatePublished - 11 Aug 2020


  • Bridge scour
  • scour monitoring
  • time domain reflectometry (TDR)

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