Nondestructive Rail Monitoring

Yuning Wu is a structural engineering graduate from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Utah. Now working at Stantec as a civil engineer, his graduate research focused on improving railroad infrastructure in Utah. He contributed greatly toward the first realtime rail track monitoring system on the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner track.

“My research focused on the nondestructive testing and structural health monitoring of civil infrastructures,” Wu said. “The rail track is the most vital for the economy because of transportation and the shipment of things.”

Wu’s research focused on a testing method that is nondestructive and nondisruptive, enabling the monitoring of thermal stress and rail temperatures without disrupting traffic or modifying the track. Monitoring and controlling the structural integrity of rail tracks is crucial due to the risk of thermal buckling, which is the primary cause of derailments.

“We tried to develop a machine learning algorithm that can utilize the data we have collected to predict the thermal stress,” Wu said.

In November 2021, Wu and his team went to Vineyard, Utah, to install the rail track monitoring system on the FrontRunner track. “We need to keep the system working 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Wu said.

The system is used to collect data to test and compare the accuracy of their algorithm. For the past few years, they have collected enough data to verify their algorithm and correctly assume the status of the rail track with minimal error.

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

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About the Author:

Lauren Nusbaum Lauren Nusbaum is from Los Angeles and moved to Utah for skiing, but stayed for a major in strategic communications. She uses her communications major and arts technology minor to further her passions of digital design and photography. Find her on Instagram @just.lauren.

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