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Time-Domain Terahertz Computed Axial Tomography NDE System

3D terahertz tomography can characterize aging, durability, and flaw conditions in materials for thermal protection systems and composite overwrap pressure vessels.

NASA has identified the need for advanced non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods to characterize aging and durability in aircraft materials to improve the safety of the nation’s airline fleet. 3D THz tomography can play a major role in detection and characterization of flaws and degradation in aircraft materials, including Kevlar-based composites and Kevlar and Zylon fabric covers for soft-shell fan containment where aging and durability issues are critical.

altA prototype computed tomography (CT) time-domain (TD) THz imaging system has been used to generate 3D images of several test objects including a TUFI tile (a thermal protection system tile used on the Space Shuttle and possibly the Orion or similar capsules). This TUFI tile had simulated impact damage that was located and the depth of damage determined. The CT motion control gantry was designed and constructed, and then integrated with a T-Ray 4000® control unit and motion controller to create a complete CT TD-THz imaging system prototype. A data collection software script was developed that takes multiple zaxis slices in sequence and saves the data for batch processing. The data collection software was integrated with the ability to batch process the slice data with the CT TD-THz image reconstruction software. The time required to take a single CT slice was decreased from six minutes to approximately one minute by replacing the 320 ps, 100-Hz waveform acquisition system with an 80 ps, 1,000-Hz waveform acquisition system.

The TD-THZ computed tomography system was built from pre-existing commercial off-the-shelf subsystems. A CT motion control gantry was constructed from COTS components that can handle larger samples. The motion control gantry allows inspection of sample sizes of up to approximately one cubic foot (≈0.03 m3). The system reduced to practice a CT-TDTHz system incorporating a COTS 80-ps/lkHz waveform scanner. The incorporation of this scanner in the system allows acquisition of 3D slice data with better signal-tonoise using a COTS scanner rather than the “chirped” scanner. The system also reduced to practice a prototype for commercial CT systems for insulating materials where safety concerns cannot accommodate x-ray. A software script was written to automate the COTS software to collect and process TD-THz CT data.

This work was done by David Zimdars of Picometrix LLC, subsidiary of Advanced Photonix, Inc. (Amex: API) for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. LEW-18776-1

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Time-Domain Terahertz Computed Axial Tomography NDE System (reference LEW-18776-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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