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Ultrasound detection of damage in complex carbon fibre/metal structures


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We describe work carried out to monitor the structural health of a complex structure comprising both carbon fibre and metal components using ultrasound techniques. The work is designed to be used in a high performance car, but could find applications in other areas such as the aerospace industry. There are two different types of potential problem that need to be examined; the first is damage (e.g. holes, delaminations) to carbon fibre structure, and the second is damage to joints either between two carbon fibre components or between a carbon fibre component and a metallic one. The techniques used are based around the use of PZT transducers for both the generation and detection of ultrasonic Lamb waves. To date we have been carrying out experiments on mock-up samples, but are due to conduct tests on an actual vehicle. Lamb waves propagate in modes whose order is determined by the frequency thickness product. Their properties, such as phase and amplitude can be modified by the presence of damage, such as holes and delaminations. If we record the response of a healthy structure, we can then compare it with signals obtained on subsequent occasions to determine if any significant change has taken place. It is essential, however, to be able to differentiate between the effects of damage and those of environmental changes such as temperature. For this reason we have monitored the response of a sample at different temperatures both before and after drilling a hole in it to simulate damage. Depending on the positions of the transducers with respect to the damaged area, it is possible to detect either attenuation of the entire signal or changes in a specific portion of the signal produced by reflections. Results from these experiments will be presented at the conference. Signal processing techniques for separating damage from the effects of temperature will also be discussed We also look at the deterioration of joints, which can either be epoxy bonded (carbon fibre to carbon fibre) or bolted together (carbon fibre to aluminium). In the case of the bonded structures we are looking at the effects of failure of the bond layer, whilst in the case of the bolted samples we are looking at loosening of the bolts. The debonding was simulated by joining together a flat plate of carbon fibre composite with an L-shaped carbon fibre piece using a couplant such as grease. Similar experiments were carried out using an aluminium anglebar bolted to the plate, with the bolts both tightened and loose. Signals of both the transmitted wave in the plate and the power coupled to the L piece were measured before and after debonding. This gives a more reliable measure of the change in power transfer between the two components as the joint/bond degrades. It was found that in order to get maximum coupling to the second component the frequency of the acoustic wave had to be altered. This is because in the bonding region the combined thickness of the components alters the modal propagation characteristics of the structure compared with those of the single component region.



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