Relationship between Frequency of RFID Tags and Its Ability to Penetrate Fresh Concrete

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The concrete maturity method can be utilized to determine in situ strength of concrete. It uses the temperature of concrete to determine a maturity index that can then be used to determine strength of concrete. However, monitoring the concrete temperature using thermocouples brings up a wiring issue, which is not advisable in an equipment and human intensive area like a construction site. One of the ways to get around this wiring issue is to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which is capable of transmitting information wirelessly. Previous research implemented using ultra high frequency RFID tags embedded in fresh concrete found that water could be the impediment for transmitting RFID signal from within concrete during early stages of curing. From literature it was found that lower the frequency, better the chances of the wave penetrating water. The objective of the research was to figure out whether the frequency of RFID tags has any relationship with the readability of RFID tags embedded in fresh concrete. For this investigation, low frequency, high frequency, and ultra high frequency RFID tags were tested within fresh concrete to see any difference between tags in terms of transmitting information. This experiment was carried out in a controlled space to reduce the number of variables affecting the experiment outcome. The low frequency, high frequency, and ultra high frequency RFID tags were placed within 2 in x 3 in x 2 in wooden formwork at a depth of 4 in, 8 in, and 12 in. Ready mix concrete was poured into the formwork and 3 concrete cubes were cast with the tags embedded within them. Readers that could be connected to a laptop were used to monitor and collect the time at which these RFID tags can be detected. The test showed that the RFID signals from the low frequency tags at all depths were detected as soon as concrete was poured. The Ultra High Frequency tags placed at the 4" level could be detected 15 minutes after concrete was poured. The UHF tags at the 8" level could be detected after 30 minutes. The UHF tags at the 12" level took on an average 2 hours to be detected from the vicinity of the formwork. The greater the depth at which the ultra high frequency tag was buried the longer it took for it to be detected. The high frequency tags could be detected only at the 4" level. The reason the performance of the HF card degraded in concrete could be because it uses an aluminum foil antenna which is more susceptible to the environment changing the relative permeability. A copper wire antenna could have fared better in this condition, increasing the chances of detecting the tag. Moreover a passive tag was used. The read range and chances of detection could have been increased had an active tag been used. The power of the reader that was used was also very less which might have contributed to the tag not being detected. Among the tags that were used in the experiment it was found that low frequency tags was the tag that could be detected the earliest after concrete was poured into the forms. However, the maximum read range of the tag observed in the experiment was 20" which is too small a distance to be used on an actual construction site.