An EU-funded project has developed the first terahertz scanners for non-destructive testing of aeroplane parts. Outperforming existing technologies, these systems detect small defects on and deep within composite materials – improving safety in the air and helping manufacturers and airline operators optimise maintenance and lower costs.
Aircraft safety relies on high-quality manufacturing and continuous safety checks and maintenance. Engineers can easily spot small dents in the fuselage or flecks of peeling paint, but what about microscopic cracks? Can they detect sub-surface defects, assess their risk and take appropriate action?
Several non-destructive testing techniques can ‘see inside’ materials, but each has significant drawbacks. For X-ray imaging, users must take special safety precautions and systems are rarely portable; ultrasound scanning often involves smearing the surface of a material in gel; microwave sensors have poor resolution.
A consortium of EU-funded researchers and manufacturers from the aerospace industry formed the DOTNAC project to develop a new type of materials scanner.
Terahertz imaging looked like the best way to combine the benefits of existing systems while removing many of their drawbacks. In the electromagnetic spectrum, terahertz waves range from the far-infrared to the microwave region. They can penetrate most non-metallic materials without any contact, but pose no health risks to system operators. Their short wavelength also helps to produce high-resolution images.
See more here.