Application of acoustic emission sensing for the non-destructive evaluation of advanced composite materials
To evaluate the state of health of the composite, a real-time, in-situ acoustic emission (AE) damage detection system has been developed, where the monitoring of AE activity emitted from within a carbon/epoxy composite material (CFRP) is achieved using an all-fibre Mach-Zehnder interferometric sensor. The basic Mach-Zehnder configuration was modified to achieve the sensitivity needed to detect the low amplitude signals associated with AE. An active homo dyne feedback loop was employed to maintain quadrature, whereas polarisation controllers ensured that the state of polarisation of the guided beams were equal. Two additional components were included in the AE detection system; fibre collimators and a demountable composite test section. The fibre collimators adjusted the optical path length in one of the arms of the interferometer to help maintain system sensitivity from test to test. The demountable test section ensured ease of testing, without the need for continual fusion splicing. The characterisation of the fibre optic sensor was achieved by an analysis of its response to known acoustic disturbances. The fibre optic sensors response to continuous and transient acoustic excitation sources demonstrated the feasibility of using an embedded fibre optic Mach-Zehnder interferometric sensor for the evaluation of composite materials. The sensor's potential for non-destructive evaluation (NDE) was investigated by placing CFRP specimens with the embedded sensors under sufficient tension to cause damage. Signal analysis was performed on the detected AE data, using the time domain parameters and the cumulative event count. The change in the slope of the cumulative count curve coincided with the point where the accumulated damage seriously compromised the structural integrity of the sample. As a damage detection system the fibre optic sensor was adequate, however, the correlation of the time domain parameters with specific damage mechanisms proved inconclusive. Specially designed samples were manufactured to help the fibre optic sensor differentiate between mechanisms. Fibre optic sensor component failure resulted in the testing and analysis using the piezoelectric transducer only. Amplitude and frequency distribution analysis of the piezoelectrically detected signals from these specially designed composite samples was attempted. From the results, it was evident that a correlation could be made between some of the damage mechanisms and the detected AE signals. However, it was apparent that a mixing of distribution occurred in some of the tests. Despite this, the results obtained using the piezoelectric transducer highlighted the benefits of attempting these specially designed tests in future fibre optic sensor work.