Portable Railroad Spike Inspection System based on Acoustic Signals


Reference #: 01567

The University of South Carolina is offering licensing opportunities for Portable Railroad Spike Inspection System based on Acoustic Signals


It is reported that broken spikes were observed frequently, including cut spikes, screw spikes, and driven spikes that were used to restrict both tie plates and rails. Since the cracks are typically underneath the spike head, it is very difficult to distinguish the broken spikes without a physical check which raises great challenges in track health evaluation and operation safety. Several recent derailments in Canada and the United States are attributed to a large number of broken spikes or screws within a certain section of track. The current approaches need specialized sensors or excitation equipment. Those approaches are expensive, not portable, and hard to operate.

Invention Description:

This invention can identify broken and cracked railroad spikes according to the acoustic signals. We can use the acoustic signals from the spikes to identify intact spikes, broken spikes, and partially cracked spikes by hitting the spikes and collect and analyze the acoustic signals.

Potential Applications:

The technology can be used to discover intact, broken, and partially cracked railroad spikes.

Advantages and Benefits:

There are some non-destructive approaches to use ultrasonic, laser, or air-coupled wave sensors to detect cracks in the railroad spikes. However, due to the energy loss through wave propagation and decay, the effective wave that can be collected from those sensors are limited. The detection accuracy is limited, and the equipment cost is expensive. Our approach does not rely on specialized sensors, thus, our proposed system is significantly cheaper, practical, and easy to operate.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Technology Commercialization
University of South Carolina
Yu Qian
Jun Liu
acoustic emission
hammer excitation
non-destructive testing
railroad spike
sound wave frequency and pattern
wave propagation
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