Structural Health Monitoring

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This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project investigates high-temperature wirelessly interrogated acoustic sensors for monitoring insulated structures such as piping and storage vessels that are in difficult to access locations and operate at elevated temperatures. Current 2-D acoustic imaging systems are wiring and data processing intensive, as well as difficult to embed in a permanently installed structural health monitoring system. The proposed innovation addresses this challenge through taking advantage of the advanced capabilities of the frequency-steered acoustic transducer (FSAT). The unique FSAT architecture allows 2-D imaging with a simple interface that can be controlled by a low-power wireless system. This proposed effort will simulate, design, and, demonstrate MEMS-based fabrication processes and material sets that allow FSAT operation in elevated temperature applications. The effort will also demonstrate low-power wireless embeddable interface electronics for simple integration of multiple FSAT devices into a distributed structural health monitoring system. If successful, this research will enable new in situ health monitoring capabilities at high-temperature. This technology is highly scalable and will provide these benefits at low capital cost and low ongoing cost. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is in the cost savings and energy savings that can be gained through increased structural health monitoring of critical components and processes in manufacturing facilities. Because the target market is high temperature industrial process control and structural monitoring, these sensors would permit savings in terms of production time, and reduced plant downtime, as well as the energy required to maintain the process temperature. Within certain situations, this sensor technology would enable wireless point measurements of structural health that are currently not feasible or affordable. Relevant and affordable monitoring solutions for low- to medium-cost industrial equipment will be beneficial to rural facilities and small-scale manufacturers who tend to use older technology, maintain small capital budgets, and operate under tight cash-flow restrictions. Broader impacts of this technology to science and education include a novel advance in existing structural health monitoring technology and funding for continued research and education in wireless sensors, acoustic imaging, and damage detection using acoustic methods.