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Automated rail inspection

An EU team has developed an improved system for automatically detecting defects in train tracks. The concept involves vehicle-mounted sets of electromagnetic transmitters and receivers, combined with positioning and processing systems.

Transport and Mobility

Railway inspection is extremely important, helping to prevent track defects and failure. Yet, current methods are very slow, costly and inefficient. The EU-funded RIFLEX (Rail inspection by flexible electromagnetic acoustic transducer) project developed an improved system. Vehicle-mounted non-contact electromagnetic acoustic transducers (EMATs) have proven effective. RIFLEX developed the concept to increase the scanned area and processing speed. The team created a device consisting of transmitter/receiver transducer pairs that include several EMAT units. The transmitter sends an acoustic wave across the rail's surface and the receiver interprets changes in the received signal as flaws in the rail. The RIFLEX system uses multiple EMAT heads to inspect an entire rail head. Researchers first developed an integrated pulser/receiver digitiser unit that included an active positioning and control mechanism. The unit was combined with a high-speed processing system using field-programmable gate array processors together with micro-controllers. The project thus produced an integrated and fully functional prototype ready for exploitation. RIFLEX's system means important efficiency improvements to rail inspection systems. Hence, Europeans can conduct more thorough inspections and avoid track failures.


Rail inspection, train tracks, RIFLEX, electromagnetic acoustic transducer

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