Safety is paramount in the aerospace sector. To prevent hazardous aero engine failures, it is essential to evaluate the structural integrity of materials used to manufacture safety-critical components to ensure there are no flaws.

Many materials have a hidden internal microstructure that is critical to their performance. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of techniques that can image it. Traditionally, Electron-beam Back Scatter Diffraction was used to image the microstructure but this is costly, time consuming and requires destructive sample preparation preventing it being used during manufacturing.

The Optics and Photonics research group have developed a revolutionary new way of assessing the microstructure of materials. This fast, cost effective and non-destructive imaging technique, called Spatially Resolved Acoustic Spectroscopy (SRAS), uses lasers to measure the speed of sound across a material’s surface to produce images of the microstructure. SRAS can operate on large engineering components and can be used during the manufacturing process to rapidly image, measure and assess the microstructure.

This patented technology, licensed out to US start-up Coherent Photon Imaging, who commercialised it in 2018, is used by leading aerospace and materials supply companies to understand the performance of new materials and manufacturing processes.

The group has recently extended the technique with another world first, SRAS++. This is able to measure the single-crystal-elasticity-matrix alongside the crystallographic orientation when imaging the microstructure. 



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