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Lifting the airline industry to new heights

Non-linear elastic wave spectroscopy (NEWS) is among a new class of non-destructive testing (NDT) methods with superior sensitivity in detection of micro-structural materials damage at early stages compared to conventional linear methods. NEWS has not yet been applied to structural health monitoring of aircraft.
Lifting the airline industry to new heights
The EU-funded ‘Health monitoring of aircraft by nonlinear elastic wave spectroscopy’ (AERO-NEWS) project was undertaken to do just that. The researchers focused on enhancing understanding of non-linear behaviours of aircraft parts and structures undergoing progressive fatigue damage in order to develop hardware and software to support NEWS inspection of a full-scale ground model in situ.

The project researchers together with partners and the user group first created a database of the most critical parts and structures of interest to NDT and their most common failure modes. They then developed two NEWS-based methodologies for damage localisation, one combining it with time reversed (TR) acoustics (TR-NEWS) and a second using multi-mode non-linear resonance acoustic spectroscopy (MUMONRAS), both of which exhibited high sensitivity.

They further developed hardware and software to be used for remote control and communication, including smart components enabling self-diagnostics with relatively few actuating and sensing devices.

The final NEWS system was evaluated in full-scale testing. Even with minimal fatigue loading that did not produce noticeable micro-damage, the non-linear techniques gave a slight indication of some damage whereas no linear technique detected the miniature cracks. This supports the superior sensitivity of the non-linear techniques.

In summary, the AERO-NEWS project made significant advances in the application of non-linear NDT methods to aircraft structural health monitoring, providing a foundation for future commercialisation of the concepts. Implementation of the project outcomes should enhance aircraft and passenger safety while decreasing maintenance and operating costs, lifting the airline industry to new heights via enhanced profits and increased consumer confidence.

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