This paper investigates the amplitude and sweeping direction dependent behavior of nonlinear ultrasonic resonance spectroscopy for fatigue crack detection. The Contact Acoustic Nonlinearity (CAN) and the nonlinear resonance phenomena are illuminated via a reduced-order bilinear oscillator model. Unlike conventional linear ultrasonic spectroscopy, which would not change its pattern under different amplitudes of excitation or the frequency sweeping direction, the nonlinear resonance spectroscopy, on the other hand, may be noticeably influenced by both the wave amplitude and the loading history. Both up-tuning and down-tuning sweeping active sensing tests with various levels of excitation amplitudes are performed on a fatigued specimen. Short time Fourier transform is adopted to obtain the time-frequency features of the sensing signal. Corresponding to each excitation frequency, a nonlinear resonance index can be established based on the amplitude ratio between the superhamronic, the subharmonic, the mixed-frequency response components and the fundament frequency. The measured nonlinear resonance spectroscopy for a certain amplitude and frequency sweeping direction can be readily used to establish an instantaneous baseline. The spectroscopy of a different amplitude or frequency sweeping direction can be compared with such an instantaneous baseline and a Damage Index (DI) is obtained by measuring the deviation between the two spectra. Experimental investigations using an aluminum plate with rivet hole nucleated fatigue cracks are performed. A series of nonlinear spectroscopies are analyzed for both the pristine case and the damaged case. The spectral features for both cases are obtained to demonstrate the proposed fatigue crack detection methodology which may find its application for structural health monitoring (SHM). The paper finishes with summary, concluding remarks, and suggestions for future work.

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