Detecting internal damage in fiber-reinforced polymers faster and more effectively

(08-02-2022) In his doctorate, Joost Segers researched how internal damage to fiber-reinforced polymers parts (of aircraft, for example) that is invisible to the naked eye can be detected quickly and effectively.

Polymers reinforced with fibers are often used in the construction of aircrafts and spacecrafts. These fibre-reinforced polymers have an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, good design flexibility and are resistant to corrosion, making them highly suitable for industrial applications.

A point of attention when using fiber-reinforced polymers is that their typical layered structure is susceptible to internal defects and damage. While a small impact (e.g. hail or tools) on an aluminum wingtip usually causes no more than a small visible dent, the same impact on a fiber-reinforced polymer wing can result in internal damage that - although invisible to the naked eye - can jeopardise the safety of the aircraft. Therefore, a test procedure that can detect this internal damage quickly and accurately is needed.

Until now, the underwater ultrasonic C-scan is mostly used for this purpose. The disadvantage is that this method is slow, not always effective, requires  coupling agent (water) and is difficult to apply to strongly curved parts and corners.  

"Therefore, my research aims to detect internal damage in fibre-reinforced polymers by elastic wavefield inspection," says Joost.

"Simplified, waves are sent through the part to be inspected. If there is internal damage, the properties of these waves change. The method is fast and effective, and you don't need water".

"Thanks to my research, defects in fiber-reinforced polymers can be detected faster and more effectively, making the use of these materials in industrial applications safer," Joost concludes.

Read a more detailed summary or the entire PhD

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PhD Title: Full-Field Elastic Wave Imaging and Processing for Non-Destructive Inspection of Fiber-Reinforced Polymers

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Contact: Joost Segers, Saeid Hedayatrasa, Mathias Kersemans

Joost Segers

Joost Segers was born on 17 January 1994 in Bornem. He studied science-mathematics and obtained his Master of Science degree in electromechanics at the University of Ghent in 2017.

Immediately afterwards, Joost started his doctoral research at the University of Ghent. His research was about non-destructive testing of fibre-reinforced polymers by means of vibrations and elastic waves. He improved existing measurement methods and developed new procedures for calculating damage visualizations from a measured elastic wave field. This led to improved defect detection in fiber-reinforced plastics.

Joost is currently the author of 21 articles, of which 10 as first author, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition, he has contributed to 14 articles, of which 6 as first author, in international scientific conferences. He supervised 3 master students and won the NDT challenge at the NDT in Aerospace conference in collaboration with the NDT team of UGent.

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Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Final editing: Ilse Vercruysse - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke