The Infrared Development and Thermal Structures Laboratory (IDTSL) is an undergraduate research laboratory in the College of Integrated Science and Technology (CISAT) at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. During the 1997-98 academic year, Dr. Jonathan Miles established the IDTSL at JMU with the support of a collaborative research grant from the NASA Langley Research Center and with additional support from the College of Integrated Science and Technology at JMU. The IDTSL supports research and development efforts that feature non-contact thermal and mechanical measurements and advance the state of the art. These efforts all entail undergraduate participation intended to significantly enrich their technical education. The IDTSL is funded by major government organizations and the private sector and provides a unique opportunity to undergraduates who wish to participate in projects that push the boundaries of non-contact measurement technologies, and provides a model for effective hands-on, project oriented, student-centered learning that reinforces concepts and skills introduced within the Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) curriculum. The lab also provides access to advanced topics and emerging measurement technologies; fosters development of teaming and communication skills in an interdisciplinary environment; and avails undergraduates of professional activities including writing papers, presentation at conferences, and participation in summer internships. This paper provides an overview of the Infrared Development and Thermal Structures Laboratory, its functionality, its record of achievements, and the important contribution it has made to the field of non-contact measurement and undergraduate education.
A thermal, non-destructive evaluation (NDE) technique has been employed by ThermTech Services, Inc. in cooperation with NASA Langley Research Center that allows for quantitative measurements of wall thickness in steam boilers. By determining the thickness of the walls, one can easily determine how much thinning has occurred due to corrosion. This type of NDE can be applied to the inspection of wings and fuselages on aircraft and spaceflight vehicles including the shuttle. The NDE technique employs the linear movement of a heat source (lamp) and an infrared imager that is situated at a fixed distance behind the heat source. The instruments are aligned on a platform that moves up and down across the outer surface of a test sample. By analyzing the induced surface temperature variations, and processing images collected with the infrared imager, it can be determined where material loss of the tubes has occurred. After an image sequence has been collected, a line-by-line subtraction methodology is utilized to discard irrelevant information so that defects are displayed in a re-created image. The overall goal of this project is to provide a proof of concept for a portable, hand-operated thermographic line scanner that would provide an alternative to the existing mass- and power-intensive instrument that utilizes a cooled infrared imager. In this project, two different microbolometers are first analyzed using different metal- and carbon epoxy-based targets to determine which provides better resolution for detection of subsurface, manufactured defects. The feasibility of using uncooled bolometer technology to support the development of a portable instrument to conduct this type of NDE technique was proven.