A bolt preload monitoring method based on the refocusing capability of virtual time reversal

Fei Du, Chao Xu*, Jie Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Bolted joints are widely used in aerospace and civil structures. Nevertheless, bolts may easily lose preload because of inappropriate initial preloads or time-varying servicing loads. Hence, bolt loosening monitoring is important for ensuring the safety and reliability of the bolt-jointed structures. In this paper, a guided wave method based on virtual time reversal (VTR) and tightness index representing refocusing capability is developed for bolt preload monitoring and to mitigate the requirement of baseline. In VTR, a response signal acquired from the bolted structure in fully tightened condition is reversed and used as the excitation signal for the bolted structure in loosening states. On this basis, the ratio of the energy of the refocused wave packet in final received wave signal to the energy of the entire signal is defined as tightness index (TIE). In this way, the calculation of TIE does not need to compare with baseline acquired in fully tightened condition. The effects of roughness of contact surfaces on guided wave propagation and the refocusing capability are analyzed by a 2D FE model. The proposed method is also experimentally validated by bolt-jointed structures with single and multiple bolts. The experimental results show that TIE increased almost linearly with the decease of bolt preload and is effective at the early stage of bolt loosening. In addition, the effect of temperature on preload detection accuracy is weak. Furthermore, it is important to select a right frequency to ensure that the TIE is sensitive throughout the entire bolt torque range.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2370
Number of pages16
JournalStructural Control and Health Monitoring
Issue number8
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • bolt loosening
  • bolt preload monitoring
  • guided wave
  • refocusing capability
  • virtual time reversal


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