A high-performance scanning acousto-ultrasonic system, now undergoing development, is designed to afford enhanced capabilities for imaging microstructural features, including flaws, inside plate specimens of materials. The system is expected to be especially helpful in analyzing defects that contribute to failures in polymer- and ceramic-matrix composite materials, which are difficult to characterize by conventional scanning ultrasonic techniques and other conventional nondestructive testing techniques.

ImageSelected aspects of the acousto-ultrasonic method have been described in several NASA Tech Briefs articles in recent years. Summarizing briefly: The acoustoultrasonic method involves the use of an apparatus like the one depicted in the figure (or an apparatus of similar functionality). Pulses are excited at one location on a surface of a plate specimen by use of a broadband transmitting ultrasonic transducer. The stress waves associated with these pulses propagate along the specimen to a receiving transducer at a different location on the same surface. Along the way, the stress waves interact with the microstructure and flaws present between the transducers. The received signal is analyzed to evaluate the microstructure and flaws.

The specific variant of the acoustoultrasonic method implemented in the present developmental system goes beyond the basic principle described above to include the following major additional features:

Computer-controlled motorized translation stages are used to automatically position the transducers at specified locations. Scanning is performed in the sense that the measurement, data-acquisition, and data-analysis processes are repeated at different specified transducer locations in an array that spans the specimen surface (or a specified portion of the surface).

A pneumatic actuator with a load cell is used to apply a controlled contact force.

In analyzing the measurement data for each pair of transducer locations in the scan, the total (multimode) acoustoultrasonic response of the specimen is utilized. The analysis is performed by custom software that extracts parameters of signals in the time and frequency domains.

The computer hardware and software provide both real-time and post-scan processing and display options. For example, oscilloscope displays of waveforms and power spectral densities are available in real time. Images can be computed while scanning continues. Signals can be digitally preprocessed and/or postprocessed by filtering, windowing, time-segmenting, and runningwaveform- averaging algorithms. In addition, the software affords options for offline simulation of the waveform-dataacquisition and scanning processes.

In tests, the system has been shown to be capable of characterizing microstructural changes and defects in SiC/SiC and C/SiC ceramic-matrix composites. Delaminations, variations in density, microstructural changes attributable to infiltration by silicon, and crack-space indications (defined in the next sentence) have been revealed in images formed from several time- and frequencydomain parameters of scanning acoustoultrasonic signals. The crack-space indications were image features that were not revealed by other nondestructive testing methods and are so named because they turned out to mark locations where cracking eventually occurred.

This work was done by Don Roth of Glenn Research Center; Richard Martin, Harold Kautz, and Laura Cosgriff of Cleveland State University; and Andrew Gyekenyesi of Ohio Aerospace Institute. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to:

NASA Glenn Research Center

Commercial Technology Office

Attn: Steve Fedor

Mail Stop 4-8

21000 Brookpark Road

Cleveland, Ohio 44135

Refer to LEW-17601-1.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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