Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Seeing below the surface: Engineers devise a new way to inspect advanced materials used to build airplanes

Date:
March 31, 2011
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Many airplane manufacturers have started building planes from advanced composite materials, which consist of high-strength fibers, such as carbon or glass, embedded in a plastic or metal matrix. Such materials are stronger and more lightweight than aluminum, but they are also more difficult to inspect for damage. A professor of aeronautics and astronautics has devised a new way to detect that internal damage, using a simple handheld device and heat-sensitive camera.

Infrared themographic image of a nanoengineered composite heated via electrical probes. The scalebar of colors is degrees Celsius. The MIT logo has been machined into the composite, and the hot and cool spots around the logo are caused by the thermal-electrical interactions of the resistive heating and the logo "damage" to the composite. The enhanced thermographic sensing described in the paper works in the same way.
Credit: Roberto Guzmán de Villoria, MIT

In recent years, many airplane manufacturers have started building their planes from advanced composite materials, which consist of high-strength fibers, such as carbon or glass, embedded in a plastic or metal matrix. Such materials are stronger and more lightweight than aluminum, but they are also more difficult to inspect for damage, because their surfaces usually don't reveal underlying problems.

Related Articles


"With aluminum, if you hit it, there's a dent there. With a composite, oftentimes if you hit it, there's no surface damage, even though there may be internal damage," says Brian L. Wardle, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

Wardle and his colleagues have devised a new way to detect that internal damage, using a simple handheld device and heat-sensitive camera. Their approach also requires engineering the composite materials to include carbon nanotubes, which generate the heat necessary for the test.

Their approach, described in the March 22 online edition of the journal Nanotechnology, could allow airlines to inspect their planes much more quickly, Wardle says. This project is part of a multiyear, aerospace-industry-funded effort to improve the mechanical properties of existing advanced aerospace-grade composites. The U.S. Air Force and Navy are also interested in the technology, and Wardle is working with them to develop it for use in their aircraft and vessels.

Uncovering damage

Advanced composite materials are commonly found not only in aircraft, but also cars, bridges and wind-turbine blades, Wardle says.

One method that inspectors now use to reveal damage in advanced composite materials is infrared thermography, which detects infrared radiation emitted when the surface is heated. In an advanced composite material, any cracks or delamination (separation of the layers that form the composite material) will redirect the flow of heat. That abnormal flow pattern can be seen with a heat-sensitive (thermographic) camera.

This is effective but cumbersome because it requires large heaters to be placed next to the surface, Wardle says. With his new approach, carbon nanotubes are incorporated into the composite material. When a small electric current is applied to the surface, the nanotubes heat up, which eliminates the need for any external heat source. The inspector can see the damage with a thermographic camera or goggles.

"It's a very clever way to utilize the properties of carbon nanotubes to deliver that thermal energy, from the inside out," says Douglas Adams, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University. Adams, who was not involved in the research, notes that two fundamental challenges remain: developing a practical way to manufacture large quantities of the new material, and ensuring that the addition of nanotubes does not detract from the material's primary function of withstanding heavy loads.

The new carbon nanotube hybrid materials that Wardle is developing have so far shown better mechanical properties, such as strength and toughness, than existing advanced composites.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Roberto Guzmán de Villoria, Namiko Yamamoto, Antonio Miravete, Brian L Wardle. Multi-physics damage sensing in nano-engineered structural composites. Nanotechnology, 2011; 22 (18): 185502 DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/18/185502

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Seeing below the surface: Engineers devise a new way to inspect advanced materials used to build airplanes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325111850.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2011, March 31). Seeing below the surface: Engineers devise a new way to inspect advanced materials used to build airplanes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325111850.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Seeing below the surface: Engineers devise a new way to inspect advanced materials used to build airplanes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325111850.htm (accessed March 3, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Solar Plane Passes New Test Ahead of World Tour

Solar Plane Passes New Test Ahead of World Tour

AFP (Mar. 2, 2015) — A solar-powered plane made a third successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates on Monday ahead of a planned round-the-world tour to promote alternative energy. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electric Hydrofoiling Watercraft Delivers Eco-Friendly Thrills

Electric Hydrofoiling Watercraft Delivers Eco-Friendly Thrills

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 2, 2015) — The Quadrofoil is a high-tech electric personal watercraft that its makers call a &apos;sports car for the water&apos;. When it hits 10 km/h, the Slovenian-engineered Quadrofoil is lifted above the water onto four wing-like hydrofoils where it &apos;flies&apos; above the surface with minimal water resistance. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Giants Unveil Latest Models at Technology Show

Smartphone Giants Unveil Latest Models at Technology Show

AFP (Mar. 2, 2015) — Mobile providers have been unveiling their upcoming models at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, showing off the latest in smartphone technology. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Tech Challenges Facing Automakers

The Tech Challenges Facing Automakers

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 2, 2015) — This year&apos;s The International Motor Show is getting underway in Geneva. As Sonia Legg reports its taking place as Europe&apos;s beleaguered car industry finally starts showing signs of picking up. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins