Non-destructive rail testing and evaluation based on guided waves need accurate information about the mode propagation characteristics, which can be obtained numerically with the exact material properties of the rails. However, for rails in service, it is difficult to accurately obtain their material properties due to temperature fluctuation, material degradation and rail profile changes caused by wear and grinding. In this study, an inverse method is proposed to identify the material elastic constants of in-service rails by minimizing the discrepancy between the phase velocities predicted by a semi-analytical finite element model and those measured using array transducers attached to the rail. By selecting guided wave modes that are sensitive to moduli but not to rail profile changes, the proposed method can make stable estimations for worn rails. Numerical experiments using a three-dimensional finite element model in ABAQUS/Explicit demonstrate that reconstruction accuracies of 0.36% for Young’s modulus and 0.87% for shear modulus can be achieved.
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