Research Team

headshot of man wearing a plaid shirt and glasses
Hai Huang, Penn State Altoona

PI: Hai Huang, Penn State Altoona

Co-PI: Gary Weisel, Penn State Altoona

UTC Project Info

Project Description

Recently, rail breaks at turnouts have been identified more and more frequently. An investigation by the European Union found that among turnout rail breaks more than 40% occurred at the switch rails (Figure 2). In the past decades, around 20% of track maintenance and renewal budgets have been spent on switches, not counting the cost associated with disrupted/delayed services (Kassa, et al. 2019). Currently, the rail industry relies primarily on periodic checks to detect rail cracks, using either ultrasonic vehicles (such as Sperry) or visual inspections. To improve railroad operation safety, real-time rail-break detection for turnouts is a great need. In this proposal, a turnout rail break warning (TRBW) system based on fiber optical and NB-IoT technologies is proposed. Although many optical sensing technologies have been developed, those designated as Distributed Optical Fiber Sensing (DOFS) are particularly attractive. By attaching a fiber-optic cable directly to a rail, DOFS is capable of making strain measurements continuously along the entire length.