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Impact Damage Detection Limits of Microwave NDE Technique for Polymer Composites



Despite recent advances, the need for improved non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques to detect and quantify early-stage damage in polymer matrix composites remains critical. A recently developed microwave based NDE technique which capitalizes on the ubiquitous presence of moisture within a polymer matrix has yielded positive results. The chemical state of moisture directly affects dielectric properties of a polymer matrix composite. Thus, the preferential diffusion of ‘free’ water into microcracks and voids associated with physical damage allows for damage detection through spatial permittivity mapping using techniques that are sensitive to moisture content and molecular water state. While it has been demonstrated that the method can detect damage at low levels of moisture and impact damage, the specific parameters under which the technique will accurately and reliably capture damage within a composite are unknown. The three variables affecting the performance of the method to detect impact damage are moisture content, extent of damage, and resolution of the dielectric scanning technique. Here, we report on the impact of the latter as a function of the two environmental variables (moisture and damage extent). To understand limits and optimize execution of the technique, the interrelationships between each of the variables must be explored. This study investigates the relationship between moisture content and scan resolution. Two BMI/quartz laminates were impacted at 9 Joules to induce barely visible impact damage. The specimens were inspected at a variety of gravimetric moisture levels, and several variations of the spatial permittivity map were created for each moisture level. Detection standards for the technique were investigated based on moisture content and desired scan accuracy; findings showed at 0.05-0.4% moisture content (by wt.) the technique can detect damage location and size with a minimum of 88% accuracy. Pareto frontiers were generated at each moisture level to optimize scan speed and accuracy.


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