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Acoustic Emission Testing

Acoustic emission (AE) is a naturally occurring phenomenon whereby external stimuli, such as mechanical loading, generate sources of elastic waves. This occurs when a small surface displacement of a material is produced, due to stress waves generated when the energy in a material, or on its surface is released rapidly. The wave generated by the source, is of practical interest in methods used to stimulate and capture AE in a controlled fashion, for study and/or use in inspection, quality control, system feedback, process monitoring and others.

The application of acoustic emission to non-destructive testing of materials in the ultrasonic regime, typically takes place between 100 kHz and 1 MHz. Unlike conventional ultrasonic testing, AE tools are designed for monitoring acoustic emissions produced within the material during failure, rather than actively transmitting waves, then collecting them after they have traveled through the material. Part failure can be documented during unattended monitoring. The monitoring of the level of AE activity during multiple load cycles forms the basis for many AE safety inspection methods, that allow the parts undergoing inspection to remain in service.

The technique is used, for example, to study the formation of cracks during the welding process, as opposed to locating them after the weld has been formed with the more familiar ultrasonic testing technique. In a material under active stress, such as some components of an airplane during flight, transducers mounted in an area can detect the formation of a crack at the moment it begins propagating. A group of transducers can be used to record signals, then locate the precise area of their origin by measuring the time for the sound to reach different transducers. The technique is also valuable for detecting cracks forming in pipelines transporting liquids under high pressures. Also, this technique is used for estimation of corrosion in reinforced concrete structures.[1][2] In addition to non-destructive testing, acoustic emission monitoring has applications in process monitoring. Applications where acoustic emission monitoring has successfully been used include detecting anomalies in fluidized beds, and end points in batch granulation.