Articles | Volume 1, issue 2
Research article
05 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 05 Nov 2012

A custom acoustic emission monitoring system for harsh environments: application to freezing-induced damage in alpine rock walls

L. Girard, J. Beutel, S. Gruber, J. Hunziker, R. Lim, and S. Weber

Abstract. We present a custom acoustic emission (AE) monitoring system designed to perform long-term measurements on high-alpine rock walls. AE monitoring is a common technique for characterizing damage evolution in solid materials. The system is based on a two-channel AE sensor node (AE-node) integrated into a wireless sensor network (WSN) customized for operation in harsh environments. This wireless architecture offers flexibility in the deployment of AE-nodes at any position of the rock wall that needs to be monitored, within a range of a few hundred meters from a core station connected to the internet. The system achieves near real-time data delivery and allows the user to remotely control the AE detection threshold. In order to protect AE sensors and capture acoustic signals from specific depths of the rock wall, a special casing was developed. The monitoring system is completed by two probes that measure rock temperature and liquid water content, both probes being also integrated into the WSN. We report a first deployment of the monitoring system on a rock wall at Jungfraujoch, 3500 m a.s.l., Switzerland. While this first deployment of the monitoring system aims to support fundamental research on processes that damage rock under cold climate, the system could serve a number of other applications, including rock fall hazard surveillance or structural monitoring of concrete structures.