Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level



Civil Engineering


Kirk Grimmelsman

Committee Member

Ernest Heymsfield

Second Committee Member

Panneer Selvam

Third Committee Member

Mark Arnold


Bridge Rating, Bridge Testing, Modal Analysis, Vibration Testing


Experimental modal analysis (EMA) of bridges and other civil structures can be used to acquire quantitative data describing their condition, and enhance opportunities for structural health monitoring and related fields. The use of EMA on civil structures has been limited by the high cost of the excitation devices that are required for the best data quality. The objective of the research reported herein is to evaluate a low-cost excitation system for multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) EMA, enabling the production of accurate estimates of the global behavior of in-service bridges.

The prototype excitation system is composed of consumer entertainment devices, namely tactile transducers and subwoofer amplifiers, which are capable of providing excitation in the range of 5 Hz to 200 Hz. The use of these devices in vibration testing is unprecedented, and their low cost allows approximately 30 structural degrees-of-freedom to be excited for the price of a single purpose-built laboratory shaker device. Methods are developed to systematically characterize the operational performance of the devices. Research and testing are also performed to optimize the techniques by which the system can be used for MIMO EMA of bridges.

The excitation system is then validated for MIMO EMA by dynamically characterizing a large-scale laboratory structure and comparing the results to those from traditional excitation methods. The system is then deployed on an in-service highway bridge, representing the first time that more than two shakers have been used in MIMO EMA testing of a bridge. The identification results using MIMO EMA are shown to be superior to those found using traditional excitation methods.

Finally, the identified modal parameters of the in-service bridge are used in load rating. Direct use of the modal properties of a bridge for load rating is unprecedented, and a relatively simple method to use measured modal flexibility to help determine live load demand is developed herein. The bridge load ratings calculated from the new method are compared to traditional methods.

In summary, a low-cost excitation system is optimized and systematically evaluated for MIMO EMA testing of civil structures, and the use of the system is validated in the laboratory and in the field. A new method to improve bridge rating reliability is then developed using the high quality modal parameters found via the optimized testing process.