Acoustic Emission

  • Eleni Tsangouri
  • Dimitrios G. AggelisEmail author
Reference work entry


Acoustic Emission (AE) is an NDE technique that measures the elastic energy released in the form of acoustic waves in materials that undergo irreversible structure changes (e.g., plastic deformation, cracking, rupture). The emitted acoustic waves are captured by sensors attached to the material’s surface. The technique considers the wave arrival time and the wave propagation speed to accurately locate in space and in time the wave source and the waveform shape to characterize the origin of nature (damage mode, crack orientation, etc.). AE monitoring systems have the ability to effectively inspect large and complex structures, are cost-effective and perform in the long-term. For these reasons, AE is the most commonly implemented NDE method in civil engineering and especially in concrete structures inspection. For several decades, AE is employed in numerous studies to fully assess and characterize cracks nucleation and propagation, damage mode and source on concrete. As concrete design and technology evolves, AE application is challenged. A case study application of AE highlights the recently developed smart autonomously healed concrete structures, the “concrete of the future.” It is shown that AE aims to develop a sensing tool; a sensor array is sufficient to detect, locate (and trigger if needed) the healing activation processes, quantify damage before and after repair. An overview of studies performed in the recent years shows the performance of AE on healing systems carrying agent that is encapsulated or embedded into advanced vascular networks.


Acoustic Emission

Physical phenomenon whereby transient elastic waves are emitted due to internal material movements

Amplitude (dB or V)

The maximum (peak) value that a waveform attains

Attenuation (dB/m)

The effect of signal magnitude drops as the distance of sensor from the source increases

Average Frequency (kHz)

The ratio of threshold crossings (counts) over the signal duration

Count (/)

Number of times that the signal exceeds the amplitude threshold

Duration (μs)

Time interval between the signal onset (first threshold crossing) and the last threshold crossing

Energy (μVs)

Area under the waveform envelope corresponding to the energy contained in the signal

Event (/)

A local material change giving rise to acoustic emission

Felicity effect

The presence of detectable acoustic emission at fixed sensitivity level, below previously exceeded stress levels

Hit (/)

Detection and identification of signal by an AE sensor

Kaiser effect

The absence of detectable acoustic emission at a fixed sensitivity level, until previously applied stress levels are exceeded

Source localization

Computing method that detects source location and time based on localization triangulation algorithm that considers the signal arrival times of the sensors array and a predetermined wave propagation velocity

Rise time (μs)

Time interval between the signal onset and the peak amplitude

RA value (μs/V)

The ratio of signal rise time over its amplitude


Detection apparatus made by piezoelectric PZT plate that senses transient elastic waves and transforms it into electrical signal


The electrical signal coming from the transducing element and passing through the subsequent signal conditioning element

Stress wave

Wave emitted as material responds to any type of stressor

Threshold (dB)

Amplitude level set such that only signals with amplitude greater than this level are identified and stored


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MeMC)Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselsBelgium

Section editors and affiliations

  • Ida Nathan
    • 1
  • Norbert Meyendorf
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of AkronAkronUSA
  2. 2.Center for Nondestructive EvaluationIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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