SBIR Phase I: Nondestructive Inspection and Monitoring System for Curved Structures
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
2630 Bayshore Parkway, Vista, CA, 92081-8317
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will explore, design, and implement a novel flexible ultrasound transducer-based nondestructive inspection and monitoring system to improve and simplify the inspection of curved and non-planar structures. Ultrasound is ideally suited to detection of internal flaws in hard materials, but existing systems are limited to planar or nearplanar surfaces. Flexible ultrasound transducer arrays are an emerging technology that can potentially enable rapid inspection of curved structures, while maintaining high angular coverage, high resolution and a large field of view. The proposed system will feature flexible transducer arrays that wrap and conform to curved structures as well as a novel damage index detection algorithm, which together will allow for early detection and monitoring of defects in curved materials before catastrophic failure. Initial development will target two important applications: curved composite aerospace structures and steel oil pipelines. The initial system will be a low cost, portable, handheld device capable of rapid, accurate non-destructive inspection of nonplanar structures. The system will also be designed for adaptation to remote monitoring in harsh environments. The proposed project is an innovative systems engineering approach that fills a significant unmet need in the energy, aerospace, and military sectors. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is focused on two industries in particular, the oil and aerospace industries. Both would significantly benefit from a system that could rapidly, efficiently, and accurately inspect and monitor curved surfaces. The application of composite materials has been increasing rapidly for contoured aero structures in the civilian and military aerospace industries, such missile systems, the new Boeing 787, and many Airbus models; however composite materials are highly susceptible to hidden flaws and impact-related damage sometimes resulting in catastrophic failure. Similarly curved steel oil pipelines are subject to corrosion and fatigue damage, especially in harsh environments such as frozen, desert, and underwater environments. The incidence of ruptures is likely to occur more frequently as pipeline infrastructure across the world continues to age. A flexible ultrasound transducer-based system featuring near autonomous signal detection algorithms that can wrap conformally around curved structures would have a large market in the aerospace, energy, and military sectors and may lead to a prevention of impact-related failure in aircraft and missile systems, as well as a reduction of blowouts in oil pipelines.
* information listed above is at the time of submission.