Reconstruction of the rolling contact fatigue cracks in rails using X-ray computed tomography

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Rolling contact fatigue (RCF) defects are associated with complex crack networks at the subsurface. A computed tomographic (CT) scanning technique has been developed to reconstruct the 3D geometry of the RCF cracks in the railhead. Sample rails having squats of different severities were taken from the Dutch railway network. Four specimens of different sizes were prepared and investigated with the CT scanner. The detailed procedures of the CT experiment and post-processing work were described. A sequence of high-quality X-ray images was collected during each scan. These 2D images were combined to construct the 3D visualization of the specimen. Various image processing tools were applied to extract and rebuild the internal crack geometries, thus allowing the crack networks to be differentiated from the bulk steel. For validation, the CT results were compared with metallographic observations of the rail surface for all the defects and the vertical section when needed. Discussions were made regarding the proper size of the rail samples and severity of the squats. According to the results, CT allows for a 3D visualization of RCF defects, providing high-quality data on the geometry of the internal cracks. By choosing the appropriate settings and specimen size, CT could accurately reconstruct the squat cracks at different growth stages. This research shows the potential of the CT technique as an intermediate detection and characterization tool among the methods for detecting macro cracks and those for characterizing micro/nano cracks. Finally, a practical specimen design and a detailed scanning procedure are proposed, based on the CT experiments performed in this research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-212
JournalNDT&E International
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Computed tomography
  • Crack
  • Detection
  • Reconstruction
  • Rolling contact fatigue


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