A Portable Thermal Analysis Microscope Equipped with Multiple Excitation Sources and Magnifications for Inspecting Aircraft Components

Period of Performance: 06/26/2002 - 03/26/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Quest Integrated, Inc.
19823 58th Place S
Kent, WA 98032
Principal Investigator


The application of multiple energy sources, individually or collectively, to strengthen the excitation of IR signals from specimens for nondestructive detection (NDI) with a Thermal Analysis Microscope (TAM) is proposed. Using thermal excitation with a hot plate or a laser, the TAM is capable of qualitative and quantitative detection of surface and subsurface flaws on relatively thin materials. Overlaying of the visible and IR images of the TAM enables accurate alignment of the IR images with the specimens. Ultrasonic excitation on materials with various flaws has recently shown to generate localized frictional heating detectable with IR sensors and therefore with the TAM. The deep-penetrating ultrasonic excitation could be superior to thermal excitation particularly for subsurface flaw detection in composite materials which can only be heated to moderate temperatures. Two or more sets of optics with different magnifications will be incorporated into the TAM. For example, optics with low or high magnification will be used for diagnostics or detailed inspection, depending whether processing speed or accuracy is desired. The portability of the TAM will be addressed by replacing the ion laser with a diode-pumped laser, by simplifying the IR optics and using fiber optics when possible, and by downsizing all components. This device will provide the DoD, NASA, DoE, FAA, and other federal agencies with a cost-effective, portable, and safe nondestructive inspection or NDI to quantify subsurface damages in composite and metallic components. The TAM will be equipped with 2 or more magnifications and operate under multiple excitation sources. It can be developed into a product line of NDI tools for diagnostics and in-depth inspection of surface and subsurface flaws. Such NDI tools will have considerable dual-use potential for several industrial sectors including aerospace, automotive, ship building, and electronics.