This article describes proof-of-concept testing of a sensor based on magnetic field detection to estimate the remaining effective cross-sectional area in corroded prestressing strands inside prestressed concrete beams. The primary corrosion mode is rusting of the strand. The magnetic properties of rust are vastly different from those of steel, thus making a magnetic sensor theoretically feasible. An electromagnet system with Hall sensors has been designed. The electromagnet induces a magnetic field in the specimen by magnetizing it from one side, and at a particular distance from the electromagnet’s pole face. At near magnetic saturation, for various diameters and distances of up to 2 in from the magnet face, the induced magnetic field is reliably related to the effective cross-section of the steel bar. Experiments with steel rods and prestressing strands of different diameters conducted in a laboratory are presented. Initial results confirm that by using an appropriate electromagnet based on the magnetic-field technique, in-situ detection of remaining effective cross-sectional area is possible. Challenges in making this technique practical are discussed. If the follow-up research confirms the practicality of the proposed magnetic sensor, there is a potential to substantially improve the state-of-the-art in bridge inspection in terms of accuracy and convenience.
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