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1 April 2019 Nondestructive evaluation of coated steel plates using a 94GHz microwave interferometer
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Development of new approaches in the nondestructive evaluation of welded steel plates for large naval structures continues to be an area of interest for the DoD and the military complex. In this article we will evaluate an elastic-microwave based detection and imaging method using numerical and experimental methods. The evaluation was performed on two test articles that were designed to represent critical structural components with flaws of interest. The flaws, cracks and weld defects have been included in the test articles to determine detection sensitivity and accuracy of the proposed method. Our approach uses a microwave interferometer (MI) to record the scattered response of flaws in the steel plated as it is driven by an incident elastic field. The MI can “see” (penetrate) through the viscoelastic coating to the upper surface of the plate. Out-of-plane displacement amplitudes of 10nm in the frequency range (25kHz to 42kHz) are readily observable, with the key feature being, that the surface bond between the coating and the steel plate are undisturbed. The non-contact aspect of the interferometer allows for large surface regions to be accurately and efficiently scanned in space and time. These spatiotemporal data coupled with specialized wavefield processing algorithms provide powerful detection and imaging capabilities. From these wavefield data sets, a plate thickness mapping capability has been demonstrated that can detect thickness changes on the order of 0.79 mm (1/32”) with spatial resolution on the order of the spatial sampling rate, 7.5 mm (~1/4”). We have also shown that a topological energy analysis of the wavefield data can detect and locate small flaws, on the order of 5-10 mm (0.025-0.40”) in the welded joint of a 1.5” thick T-plate. Note, all of these results are obtained through a 2” thick viscoelastic coating without disturbing the coating or the coating bond. The current results indicate that we are detecting and locating damage (flaws) in the plate that are smaller than the wavelength of the propagating guided modes. Classical scattering theory places a (λ/2) resolution limit on the detectability of flaws in terms of the incident field, however, since the spatial resolution of the scanned region is much smaller, (▵x=▵y=15mm) and the inherent natural focusing of the time reversal operation, we are able to detect smaller flaws on the order of (λ/10). It is important to realize that we are not imaging the flaw but detecting and localizing a difference between a reference (pristine) sample and the measured (damaged) sample, relative to a spatial grid on the surface. The current scan resolution is 15mm × 15mm. At present we cannot expect to resolve individual flaws within a grid space only their cumulative effect. Even with the current limitations, this imaging approach appears to be a promising alternative to current methods where the coating layer is removed.
Conference Presentation
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Karl A. Fisher, Owen Mays, Peter Haugen, and David Obenauf "Nondestructive evaluation of coated steel plates using a 94GHz microwave interferometer", Proc. SPIE 10971, Nondestructive Characterization and Monitoring of Advanced Materials, Aerospace, Civil Infrastructure, and Transportation XIII, 109710K (1 April 2019);

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