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SHM Application to USACE Large Civil Infrastructure: Development of Trunnion Friction Detection Methodology for Radial (Tainter) Gates



Radial, or Tainter, gates are the most commonly used gate type for large, controlled spillways. The failure of a Tainter gate has the potential to be catastrophic, and could include loss of life, flooding of homes and businesses, significant ecological impacts, and unscheduled repair/replacement at premium cost. In 1995, the Folsom Dam failed suddenly due to corrosion that developed at the trunnion pin-hub interface, creating rotational friction during operation. This failure raised awareness within the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regarding the need to advance the state of design, inspection, and maintenance planning related to this potential hazard. In direct response to concern expressed by numerous USACE districts, the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) initiated a research project to develop an automated detection system that uses real-time structural data collected through Structural Health Monitoring techniques, to indicate the presence of trunnion friction. In this paper, a methodology developed to measure the effective level of friction at a Tainter gate trunnion hub using a minimal number of strain gages will be described. The ability to determine, in real-time, the level of trunnion friction in a Tainter gate trunnion could provide an operator vital information, which could be used to avoid a catastrophic failure. As part of this research effort, a 1/5th-scale numerical model was developed and a scaled physical model was designed and fabricated, using the Big Cliff Dam Tainter gates as the basis of design. The physical model was instrumented with a strategically placed suite of sensors to collect data, and the proposed feature detection strategy was shown to be successful. The paper will provide details of the lab test and field deployment, including a description of the setup, instrumentation strategy, and conclusions. The results of this research would be of interest to the structural health monitoring community, and to design and maintenance engineers responsible for large civil infrastructure

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