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AUTOMATIC CORROSION CLASSIFICATION AND

QUANTIFICATION OF STEEL REINFORCING BARS WITHIN


CONCRETE USING IMAGE DATA GENERATED BY AN
INDUCTIVE SENSOR

M. Zaid, F. EL-Madaani, P. Gaydecki and G. Miller

School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the University of Manchester, PO Box 88,
Manchester M60 1QD, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT. This paper presents a methodology to automatically distinguish and quantify the corrosion
of reinforcing bars within concrete using images generated by an inductive sensor. The methodology
comprises three stages; image generation using the inductive sensor, image segmentation and feature
extraction and neural network object classification. Preliminary results have shown that the methodology
has correctly classified all the corroded parts on the testing samples while estimated the corrosion rate
correctly on 80% of the testing samples.
Keywords: Heterodyne sensor, image segmentation, feature extraction, corrosion quantification
PACS: 85.75.Ss , 07.05.Pj, 82. 45. Bb

INTRODUCTION
Over the last several years, significant progress has been achieved in many aspects of
the inductive imaging research such as bar dimensional information extraction and scanning
time reduction. However, the inductive imaging technology still lacks a proper
methodology to automatically classify and quantify the corrosion generated on the
reinforcing steel bars. This paper describes a methodology for corrosion classification and
quantification. The methodology comprises four main stages: image generation using the
inductive sensor, image segmentation to split the image into corroded and noncorroded
regions, feature extraction to represent the image different regions and finally corroded
region classification and quantification using neural networks.

CP820, Review of Quantitative Nondestructive Evaluation Vol. 25, ed. by D. O. Thompson and D. E. Chimenti
2006 American Institute of Physics 0-7354-0312-0/06/$23.00

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Scan Distance (mm)

Scan Distance (mm)

0
-0.05

100

200

300

Sensor Response (Volt)

Sensor Response(Volt)

0.05

400

-0.1
-0.15
-0.2

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

-0.1
-0.2
-0.3

Corroded
part

-0.4
-0.5

-0.25
-0.6

Noncorroded
part

(b)

(a)

FIGURE 1. The Heterodyne Sensor Response. (a) Clean Bar. (b) Half Corroded Bar.

METHOD
Image Generation Using the Heterodyne Sensor
As described in a previous publication [1], the heterodyne sensor can generate images of
surface corrosion present on the reinforcing steel bars. However, these images can give
only a qualitative analysis about the presence of surface corrosion and provide no
quantitative information. Figure 1 depicts a line scan at a scan depth of 20mm for two
12mm bars; a noncorroded bar and a half corroded one. The corroded and noncorroded
regions are represented with different voltage levels. Clearly, the corroded part is
represented with higher negative voltage levels. In the case of images generated by the
heterodyne sensor, the higher the negative voltage the lower the intensity and darker
regions will be produced. These regions represent the corroded areas on the steel bar.
Segmentation of the Inductively Generated Images
Having generated the images of the corroded bars, the next step in this process is to
segregate the corroded regions from the rest of the image. This is achieved using the
process of image segmentation. During segmentation, the corroded regions are segregated
from the other content of the image for further processing.
The core step in performing the image segmentation task is to select a good set of
descriptors (called features) for each region in the image.
There are a number of features that can be used to describe different image patterns.
These features include geometrical features, histogram features, moment features and
wavelet features. The extracted features are then used to classify the corroded and
noncorroded regions in the image and also in estimating the generated corrosion.
Wavelet transforms have been widely used in image segmentation [2]. The wavelet
transform produces a set of wavelet coefficients to represent each image pixel; four
coefficients are produced if the transform is applied once. These coefficients can be used to
perform segmentation of the inductively generated images to classify and quantify the
corroded regions because the coefficients of each region can be considered as a good
feature set to describe the corroded and noncorroded regions on the segmented image.
Each pixel in the image can now have a feature vector. This feature vector is formed
from the pixel grey level intensity in the original image and the corresponding coefficients
in the transformed image.

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Afterwards, the resulting feature vector for each pixel is fed into a k-means classifier to
classify the similar pixels based on the similarity between the wavelet coefficients
representing each pixel in the image. The number of levels to which the segmentation is to
be performed is also entered to the classifier. In the k-means clustering technique, the
distance between cluster vectors is used as a measure to segment the image.
Based on the Euclidean distance, each of the vectors is then classified to a certain
cluster. Since each pixel in the original image is represented by a classified vector, every
pixel is now classified into one of the k clusters. Therefore a k level segmented image is
produced and each segment is assigned the average grey scale value of the pixels in the
cluster.
Corrosion Classification and Quantification
After extracting the feature set of every image, the feature sets are then collected in one
ensemble. This ensemble is further divided into two sets; a training set and a testing set.
The information content of the training samples is used to classify the unknown samples in
the test set. This classification is achieved using neural networks [3].
In this paper, a backpropagation neural network classifier is used to acquire feature sets
and to learn how to classify objects in the images into corroded and noncorroded regions
and how to quantify the corrosion in the corroded areas.
The feature vector of each segment is applied to the neural network input layer.
However, each output vector, in the training process, consists of two fields; a field
indicating whether the feature vector in the input layer represents a corroded region or a
noncorroded region and a field indicting the estimate of the corrosion measured in terms of
material loss in grams per square centimetre per day.
EXPERIMENTAL SETUP
A set of 4 bar samples was used in the experiments. The bar diameters were 8, 10, 12
and 16 mm. All the bars were 200 mm in length. Six sets of these bar samples were used to
corrode each bar sample at 3 different corrosion currents of 30 mA, 80 mA and 130 mA for
2 periods of time; 3 days and 5 days. The bars were corroded using an accelerated corrosion
system as depicted in Figure 2. Each bar sample was weighed before and after the corrosion
process to measure the material loss due to corrosion. The measured corrosion rate can be
mathematically expressed as:
CR =

Wb Wa
A.T

(1)

where Wa is the bar weight (in grams) after the corrosion process, Wb is the bar weight (in
grams) before the corrosion process, A is the bar cross sectional area in cm2 and T is the
corrosion time in days.
The bar samples were divided into two sets; the first set was corroded for three days and
the second one was corroded for five days. Each of these two sets had three subsets and
each of them had four different bar sizes; 8, 10, 12 and 16 mm. The three subsets were

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FIGURE 2. The Accelerated Corrosion System.

corroded at corrosion currents of 30 mA, 80 mA and 130 mA. In other words, for each
period of time; three days and five days, three different corroded samples were produced
for each bar size. For each bar sample, half of the bar (100 mm) was corroded and the other
half left noncorroded.
Afterwards, each bar sample was scanned using the heterodyne sensor. The scan depth
for the entire bar samples was 20mm. The images generated by the heterodyne sensor were
50 300 pixels in size. The raw images generated by the sensor contain voltage values
which represent the corroded and noncorroded regions on the bar.
The raw images were first transformed into grey scale images in which the corroded
parts appear darker (low intensity values) than the noncorroded parts. Afterwards, the
images were segmented based on the wavelet coefficients as described in the previous
section. The segmentation level was chosen to be 9 for all the images.
The result of the segmentation process was nine feature vectors representing each
image. Each vector consisted of the grey scale average value of each cluster in the
segmented image and the four wavelet coefficients representing that cluster. The corroded
region in each image was represented by one feature vector.
The set of the feature vectors was then divided into two sets: a training set and a testing
set. The training set was then fed into a neural network for automatic classification and
quantification. The network was trained to classify the feature vectors into corroded classes
and noncorroded classes. For the corroded classes, the network was trained to give a fuzzy
estimate of the corrosion severity.
Two quantification routines were designed. The first one was applied to train the
network on how to quantify the corroded regions, based on a two level quantification scale.
In other words, the network was trained to decide whether a corroded region was greater
than a certain corrosion rate (set by the user based on the applied corrosion current) or less
than it. This particular corrosion rate represented a level of moderate corrosion. The
selection and calculation of this rate is explained in more detail in the next section. In the
second quantification routine, another network was trained to quantify the corroded regions
on a slightly broader scale. In this scale, the corroded regions were quantified based on
three levels; weak to moderate corrosion, moderate to high corrosion and high corrosion
rate. This broad criterion has been developed from laboratory and field investigations with
the sensor controlled guard ring device [4] and is described in Table 1 [5].
TABLE 1. Criteria for corrosion rate quantification.
Corrosion Current

Corrosion Rate

<0.1 A/cm2

Passive condition

0.1 to 0.5 A/cm2

Low to moderate corrosion

0.5 to 1 A/cm

Moderate to high corrosion

> 1A/cm

High corrosion rate

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(b)

(a)

FIGURE 3. (a) The 10 mm Bar Image Generated by the Heterodyne Sensor. (b) The 9-Level Segmented
Image.

For this purpose, based on trial and error, two neural networks were designed. For the
first quantification routine, the neural network consisted of 4 neurons in the input layer, 8
neurons in the hidden layer and 2 neurons in the output layer (one for classification and the
other for quantification). For the second quantification routine, the neural network
consisted of 5 neurons in the input layer, 15 neurons in the hidden layer and 2 neurons in
the output layer (one for classification and the other for quantification). The goal mean
square error for both networks was 10-4.
RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
After corroding each bar sample, the corrosion rate was measured using equation (1). In
this equation, the material loss was normalised by the time needed to corrode the sample
and the cross sectional area of the steel bar. This was necessary to get rid of the effect of
changing the bar size on the corrosion rate measurement. In addition, it was also very
important to preprocess the measurements for the classification and quantification task.
Figure 3 shows the image generated by the heterodyne sensor for the half corroded bar
sample of 10 mm scanned at a depth of 20 mm. The figure also shows the segmented image
at the segmentation level of 9 using the wavelet coefficients. The nine feature vectors
representing each image were then fed into the neural network for classification and
quantification.
In the classification task, the network was trained to produce 1 for the corroded part
of the image and to produce 0 for the noncorroded one. However, the measured corrosion
rates ranged between 0.01 and 0.1 (g/cm2.day). In the first quantification routine, the
corrosion rate of 0.06 g/cm2. day was chosen to represent the rate of moderate corrosion, as
it corresponds to a moderate corrosion current density of 0.5 A/cm2. For the purpose of
corrosion quantification, the network was then trained to quantify the corroded area based
on its corrosion rate; a low corrosion rate for corrosion rates less than 0.06 g/cm2day and a
high corrosion rate for corrosion rates greater than 0.06 g/cm2day.
In the second quantification routine, the corrosion rates were divided into a three-level
scale; less than 0.03 g/cm2day for low corrosion rates, from 0.03 to 0.06 g/cm2day for
moderate corrosion rates and greater than 0.06 g/cm2day for high corrosion rates.
Table 2 shows the neural network results for the classification and the quantification of
steel bar samples using the first quantification routine. The network was trained first to
classify and quantify the corroded regions on fifteen different images of half corroded steel
samples. Six different images with different corroded regions were used to test the network.
It is clear from the table that all the corroded regions on the images were classified
correctly with an average estimation error of 0.017 per sample. The table also shows that

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TABLE 2. Neural network classification and quantification results of corroded steel bar samples using the
first quantification routine.
Corrosion Rate
Neural Network
Neural Network
Assessment
(g/cm2day)
Classification
Quantification
0.0663
1.0112
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0531
1.0071
<0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0796
1.0024
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0637
1.0008
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0212
1.0119
<0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0358
1.0691
>0.06
True Classification and False Quantification

the network succeeded in giving correct quantification estimations for five images and
failed to give a correct estimation for one image.
Table 3 depicts the neural network results for the classification and the quantification of
steel bar samples using the second quantification routine. Similarly, the second network
was trained first to classify and quantify the corroded regions on fifteen different images of
half corroded steel samples. Again, six different images with different corroded regions
were used to test the network. Table 3 clearly shows that the network correctly classified
five images and failed to classify one image. The average estimation error of the correctly
classified samples was 0.012 per sample. Using the second quantification routine, the table
also shows that the network succeeded in giving correct quantification estimations for five
images and failed to give a correct estimation for one image.
To prove the repeatability and accuracy of the method, two concrete-steel samples
(using 8 mm steel bars) were prepared. The concrete-steel sample consisted of a 20 cm
length steel bar, half of which (100 mm) was cast in a cylindrical concrete sleeve capped
from one side. The concrete cover on the steel was 20 mm measured from the surface of the
bar.
Figure 4 (a) shows the concrete-steel sample fabricated using the 8 mm bar. This
sample was corroded using the accelerated system depicted in Figure 2, using a corrosion
current of 10 mA for different periods of time (from 1 day to 10 days). The sample was
removed from the solution, scanned by the sensor (at a depth of 20 mm) and returned to the
solution on a daily basis. Eventually, ten inductive images were generated for that sample
with ten different corrosion rates. As explained before, the images were then segmented, as
shown in Figure 4 (b), and nine feature vectors were then extracted for each image. These
vectors were then divided into two sets: a training set and a testing set.
TABLE 3. Neural network classification and quantification results of corroded steel bar samples using the
second quantification routine.
Corrosion Rate
Neural Network
Neural Network
Assessment
(g/cm2day)
Classification
Quantification
0.0663
1.0108
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0531
1.0035
>0.03 and <0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0796
0.9972
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0637
1.0080
>0.06
True Classification and Quantification
0.0212
1.0394
<0.03
True Classification and Quantification
0.0358
0.6304
>0.03 and <0.06
False Classification and False
Quantification

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(a)

(b)

FIGURE 4. 8 mm Concrete-Steel Sample. (a) The 8 mm Corroded Concrete-Steel Sample. (b) The Inductive
and the Segmented Images of (a).

The training data set obtained from the steel bars described in the previous experiment
was enlarged by adding three new feature vectors obtained from the concrete-steel samples.
The neural network was trained again on the new enlarged data set using the two
classification and quantification routines described above.
Table 4 shows the neural network results for the classification and the quantification of
the 8mm concrete-steel samples using the first quantification routine. Four different images
with different corroded regions were used to test the network. It is clear from the table that
all the corroded regions on the images were classified correctly with an average estimation
error of 0.065 per sample. The table also shows that the network managed to quantify all
the samples correctly.
Table 5 shows the neural network results for the classification and the quantification of
the 8mm concrete-steel samples using the second quantification routine. Again, four
different images with different corroded regions were used to test the network. It can be
seen from the table that the network classified all the corroded regions correctly with an
average estimation error of 0.0175 per sample. Using the second quantification routine, the
table also shows that the network managed to give correct quantification estimations for
three images and failed to give a correct estimation for one image.
DISCUSSION
Although the method does not give exact figures of how much corrosion was generated
on the steel bar, it gives confidence intervals which specify the corrosion severity based on
a range of rates instead of figures. The method is being improved by the authors to give
figure estimates instead of intervals.
TABLE 4. Neural network classification and quantification results of an 8mm corroded concrete-steel
sample using the first quantification routine.
Corrosion Rate
(g/cm2day)
0.09953
0.07963
0.02986
0.01991

Neural Network
Classification
1.0140
1.1653
0.9883
0.9319

Neural Network
Quantification
>0.06
>0.06
<0.06
<0.06

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Assessment
True Classification and Quantification
True Classification and Quantification
True Classification and Quantification
True Classification and Quantification

TABLE 5. Neural network classification and quantification results of an 8 mm corroded concrete-steel


sample using the second quantification routine.
Corrosion Rate
(g/cm2day)
0.09953
0.07963
0.02986

Neural Network
Classification
1.0083
1.0100
1.0082

Neural Network
Quantification
>0.06
>0.06
>0.06

0.01991

0.9567

<0.03

Assessment
True Classification and Quantification
True Classification and Quantification
True Classification and False
Quantification
True Classification and Quantification

In the accelerated corrosion system, a high corrosion current is used in a short space of
time. In fact, this is not the case in real life as the corrosion current is small and the
structure age is very long compared to the time required to corrode the samples using the
accelerated system. It was therefore necessary to scale down the corrosion currents used in
the accelerated system to the range specified by the criteria described in Table 1, in order to
determine the corresponding corrosion rates during the quantification process.
The results obtained show that the method is reasonably reliable. However, the
methods reliability depends mainly on a number of factors such as the sensor drift,
corrosion current, the number of segmentation levels and the describing features.
CONCLUSION
Using image segmentation and backpropagation neural networks, a method to classify
and quantify corrosion of reinforcing bars in concrete scanned by an inductive sensor has
been developed. A wide range of bar diameters and corrosion rates has been used during
the experiments. Tests have shown that the method is robust and reliable.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors wish to express their thanks to the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council in the UK and GMMR authority in Libya for financially supporting this
work.
REFERENCES
1. Miller G., Gaydecki P. , Quek S., Fernandes B. and Zaid, M.A.M., NDT & E
International 36 19-26 (2003).
2. Unser M., IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, 4.11, 1549-1560 (1995).
3. Demuth H. and Beale M., Neural networks toolbox for use with Matlab, the Mathworks
Inc, 2001.
4. Broomfield J. P., Corrosion of Steel in Concrete; Understanding, Investigation and
Repair, E & FN SPON, First edition, London,1997, pp.68.
5. Broomfield J. P., Corrosion of Steel in Concrete, Uhlig's Corrosion Handbook, Second
Edition, Edited by R.Winston Revie, John Wiley & Sons, 2000, pp.518-600.

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