Magnetostrictive composite inspection for structural health monitoring commended at Tech Briefs Design the Future design Contest
The contest is organised by Tech Briefs, publishers of NASA Tech Briefs, to help stimulate and reward engineering. (NASA is required by charter to report new commercially significant technologies)
Composites are complicated materials by nature - different materials are combined in a pre-defined way, each with their own role in imparting properties to the overall product, to give a material superior properties to its individual components. Damaged composites are even more complicated: the damage may be superficial, catastrophic, or somewhere in-between. The detection of damage to composite materials is often challenging, as it can be hidden by the outer layers. While there are a number of techniques for non-destructively testing composites, these are not without their drawbacks:
- They are time-consuming and tedious
- They are prone to mistakes and human error
- There is a high cost for automated visual systems
- It is inaccurate if the damage is not visible on the surface/subsurface, making visual inspection inadequate
- It is challenging for mid-flight or in-line inspection.
Researchers from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield recently presented a design idea, to address these drawbacks using magnetostrictive technology.
The idea, developed by Dr Zhaoyuan Leong, Professor Nicola Morley, and Dr Pratik Desai (Perlemax Ltd.), utilised actuator/sensor pairs for damage detection by embedding dispersions of inexpensive magnetostrictive microparticles within a suitably thin flexible matrix. On to this, a sparse-array sensor grid is attached, from which damage position can be determined. This approach can be used to monitor critical components in aircraft to obtain near-instantaneous updates, even for off-line detection.
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