Strathclyde NDE laboratory

A new laboratory to support pioneering engineering research is to be created at Strathclyde University in Glasgow following a funding boost of £1.2m.

The Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) facility, claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the development of new imaging techniques to test structures and components in the aerospace, nuclear, oil and gas, energy and transport sectors.

Specialist ultrasonic, acoustic and magnetic imaging equipment will enable researchers to detect weaknesses or minuscule cracks in structures from pipes to engine components without causing damage, saving time and money in product development, maintenance and troubleshooting.

The research team within the university’s Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering — part of the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering — will work with partners from industry to test technologies and new products.

The new facility will also support the UK Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation, a collaboration between the universities of Strathclyde, Imperial, Bath, Bristol, Nottingham and Warwick, and 16 major end-user companies. All of the collaborators will have access to the facility.

Project leader Prof Gordon Hayward, of Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, said: ‘Non-Destructive Evaluation plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and reliability of structures, machinery and infrastructure, as well as minimising their impact on the environment.

‘The new lab will enable us to carry out world-class research to test new materials and designs required by industry.’

Equipment at the new laboratory will include: array control systems for real-time, ultrasonic imaging of welded joints in pipelines and other structures; a scanning acoustic microscope for evaluating micro-miniature components; and robotic positioning systems for evaluating complex geometrical structures, including aircraft and nuclear installations.

Laser ultrasound scanning for high-resolution, fine-scale imaging and magnetic imaging systems for materials testing will also be available.

In addition to enhancing existing research partnerships, the facility is set to create new collaborations with the universities of Manchester and Sheffield, which will gain access to the equipment on a reciprocal basis with Strathclyde.

In the longer term, the team aims to also use the laboratory for high-level training.

The news follows the establishment of the Advanced Forming Research Centre, a £25m research centre to develop manufacturing technologies for industry. The collaboration between the university, Scottish Enterprise and engineering companies will see the opening of a bespoke centre in Renfrewshire next year.