Welcome to the website for the Listening to Infrastructure research programme.

The goal of Listening to Infrastructure is to revolutionise infrastructure stewardship with acoustic emission (AE) sensing. If we can listen to geotechnical assets (e.g. buried pipelines, foundations, retaining structures, tunnels and dams) with intelligent sensors – analogous to a stethoscope being used to listen to a patient’s heartbeat – we will be able to provide information on the condition of infrastructure and early warning of deterioration in real-time. Our vision is of a family of AE sensors distributed globally, protecting people and infrastructure.

Proportions of the energy dissipated during deformation of, and seepage through, particulate materials (i.e. the soils in the ground) are converted to heat and sound. The high-frequency (>10kHz) component of this sound energy is called AE. AE monitoring offers the potential to sense particle-scale behaviours that lead to macro-scale responses of granular materials. The AE generation mechanisms in geotechnical assets are illustrated in Figure 1.


Figure 1. AE generation mechanisms in geotechnical assets

An illustration of the Listening to Infrastructure monitoring concept is shown in Figure 2. The example shows a fault-rupture deforming a buried pipeline. AE is generated by soil deformation and soil/structure interaction, which propagates as guided waves along the pipeline to the monitoring sensors. The monitoring system interprets the AE and sends a warning to decision makers via telemetry to enable targeted and timely interventions.

Figure 2. Illustration of the Listening to Infrastructure monitoring concept for buried pipelines

The benefits of the AE monitoring approach include:

  • Low-cost technology
  • Ability to retrofit to existing, ageing assets
  • Continuous measurements with high temporal resolution
  • Real-time information
  • Provides early warning of deterioration behaviour