Flight and nuclear safety enhanced by sound research at Strathclyde

(7) flight and nuclear safety

By Émer O’Toole, News Editor


An academic at the University has developed a system for using sound waves to find potentially dangerous cracks in pipes, aircraft engines and nuclear power plants.

An investigation determined that transmitting different kinds of sound waves can aid finding structural defects more easily.

This is done by varying the duration and frequency of the waves and using the results to recreate an image of the component’s interior.

The system is a model for a form of non-destructive testing (NDT), which uses high-frequency mechanical waves to inspect structure parts, and ensure they operate reliably.

It could also potentially have applications in medical imaging and seismology.

Katherine Tant, a Research Associate with Strathclyde’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, led the study.

She spoke of how welds are “vitally important in ‘safety critical’ structures, like nuclear power plants, aeroplane engines and pipelines, where flaws can put lives at risk.”

However, Tant also said that as with any type of bond, welds “constitute the weak part of the structure.”

“One particular type of weld, made of austenitic steel, is notoriously difficult to inspect. We were able to devise solutions involving the use of ‘chirps’ – coded signals with multiple frequencies which vary in time.

“The type of flaw identified depends on the method used. An analogy would be the type of echoes produced by clapping loudly in a cave – a single clap may allow you to judge the depth of the cave while a round of applause will give rise to a range of echoes, perhaps allowing you to locate boulders.”if (document.currentScript) {