Aircraft engine rotating equipment operates at high temperatures and stresses. Noninvasive inspection of microcracks in those components poses a challenge for nondestructive evaluation. A low-cost, low-profile, high-temperature ultrasonic guided wave sensor was developed that detects cracks in situ. The transducer design provides nondestructive evaluation of structures and materials.

A key feature of the sensor is that it withstands high temperatures and excites strong surface wave energy to inspect surface and subsurface cracks. The sol-gel bismuth titanate-based surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensor can generate efficient SAWs for crack inspection. The sensor is very thin (submillimeter) and can generate surface waves up to 540 °C. Finite element analysis of the SAW transducer design was performed to predict the sensor behavior, and experimental studies confirmed the results.

The sensor can be implemented on structures of various shapes. With a spray-coating process, the sensor can be applied to the surface of large curvatures. It has minimal effect on airflow or rotating equipment imbalance, and provides good sensitivity.

This work was done by George Zhao of Intelligent Automation, Inc. and Bernhard R. Tittmann of The Pennsylvania State University 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: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18447-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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