Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) is integral to preserving the structural health of materials. Techniques that fall under the NDT category are able to evaluate integrity and condition of a material without permanently altering any property of the material. Additionally, they can typically be used while the material is in active use instead of needing downtime for inspection.
The two general categories of structural health monitoring (SHM) systems include passive and active monitoring. Active SHM systems utilize an input of energy to monitor the health of a structure (such as sound waves in ultrasonics), while passive systems do not. As such, passive SHM tends to be more desirable. A system could be permanently fixed to a critical location, passively accepting signals until it records a damage event, then localize and characterize the damage. This is the goal of acoustic emissions testing.
When certain types of damage occur, such as matrix cracking or delamination in composites, the corresponding release of energy creates sound waves, or acoustic emissions, that propagate through the material. Audio sensors fixed to the surface can pick up data from both the time and frequency domains of the wave. With proper data analysis, a time of arrival (TOA) can be calculated for each sensor allowing for localization of the damage event. The frequency data can be used to characterize the damage.
In traditional acoustic emissions testing, the TOA combined with wave velocity and information about signal attenuation in the material is used to localize events. However, in instances of complex geometries or anisotropic materials (such as carbon fibre composites), velocity and attenuation can vary wildly based on the direction of interest. In these cases, localization can be based off of the time of arrival distances for each sensor pair. This technique is called Delta T mapping, and is the main focus of this study.