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Non-Destructive Testing of Wind Turbine Blades

Using an Infrared Thermography: A Review

Bin Yang, Lixin Zhang, Weidong Zhang, Yibo Ai

National Center for Materials Service Safety University of Science and Technology Beijing
Beijing, China; ;;

AbstractRenewable energy plays a vital role in power during service. This article describes the principle
industry to fulfil the growing demand of power in industrial technique of passive and active thermography. In detail,
sector and other utilities. Wind energy is an attractive many examples show the possibility to detect defects like
power source because it is plentiful and renewable. Wind poor bonding, delaminations and internal structural faults
energy will play a major role in the power supply in the by using passive and active infrared (IR) thermography
world. The wind turbine blades are key components in wind techniques. But more advanced techniques like active
turbine. These blades suffer from complex loading, that can online thermography will demonstrate the outstanding
cause severe malfunctioning and even catastrophic collapse, results in finding even small defects in these up to 65 m
and that initiates as small defects. The bulk of the defects in long rotor blades of wind turbines.[5]
wind turbine blades occur during the manufacturing phase;
the rest are due to stresses caused by the aerodynamic loads The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. In
and aging. The digital infrared thermography as a non- Section 2, we introduce the theory of infrared (IR)
destructive test (NDT) tool was used to detect defects and thermography. Section 3 describes the current state of
monitor the health of wind turbine blades. The main infrared (IR) thermography in wind turbine blade testing.
objectives in this paper are to review the current state of Finally, we describe future work for using infrared (IR)
infrared thermography of wind turbines blades tests at thermography in wind turbine blades.
manufacture and in-service.

KeywordsWind turbine blades; Infrared thermography; II. THE THEORY OF INFRARED THERMOGRAPHY
non-destructive test; Defects
Infrared Thermography is the science of actually
seeing heat, and can detect heat that would normally be
I. INTRODUCTION invisible to the human eye and represent it as an image.
Facing energy crisis, wind power is a promising Infrared thermography is the determination of surface
source of environmentally safe and renewable energy with temperatures of objects and bodies with the help of
a high potential. Renewable energies will play a major infrared photography. In the electromagnetic spectrum, as
role in the power supply in the world. As we know, the shown Figure 1, infrared radiation falls in the wavelengths
wind turbine blade is the most important part of a wind just above that of visible light. This is why infrared
energy plant. [1~2] Furthermore, these blades have often radiation is normally invisible by peoples.[6]
sustained heavy and complex loads, and harsh
environment conditions. Therefore, in order to fully
exploit energy of wind power the construction elements of
the wind turbine should be inspected periodically. Wind
turbine blades are complicated objects for inspection
because they have an arbitrary curved surface, are multi-
layered, have variable thickness and are made from
anisotropic materials. And that, most of the blades are
made of two glass fibre reinforced plastic half shells
which are glued together. Usually for stiffness reasons,
different types of spars are introduced into the blade.
These glued joints are the potential defective or weak
parts of the construction.[3] Figure 1. Spectrum of electromagnetic radiation
Many different techniques are developed for wind
turbine blades testing. An infrared nondestructive Infrared light can be split into three categories:
technique is an ideal candidate for this application due to
its non-contact nature and wide-area inspection capability. Near-infrared (near-IR)-Closest to visible light, near-
And infrared (IR) thermography as a temperature IR has wavelengths that range from 0.7 to 1.3 microns, or
measurement tool which can be usefully exploited in a 700 billionths to 1,300 billionths of a meter. Mid-infrared
vast variety of heat transfer industrial applications as well (mid-IR) - Mid-IR has wavelengths ranging from 1.3 to 3
as research fields.[4] Advanced Infrared Thermography as microns. Both near-IR and mid-IR are used by a variety of
a new method is used to detect defects and monitor the electronic devices, including remote controls. Thermal-
health of wind turbine bladesboth before installation and infrared (thermal-IR) - Occupying the largest part of the
978-1-4799-3336-5/13/$31.00 2013 IEEE

infrared spectrum, thermal-IR has wavelengths ranging of interest. Variations in the thermodynamic properties of
from 3 microns to over 30 microns. [7] the object then produce surface temperature patterns
which can be detected with an infrared imaging system.
The major fundamental principles that make IR Hot spots, due to degeneration of components or bad
thermal imaging possible begin with the observation that internal contact can be identified in a simple and fast
all objects emit a distribution of electromagnetic radiation manner. This method is particularly sensitive to flaws near
that is uniquely related to the object temperature. the inspected surface [9, 10]. In [11], the research work
Electromagnetic radiation arises from the oscillation of describes the principle technique of passive and active
electrostatically charged particles, such as the charged thermography. In detail the more advanced technique of
particles found within an atom, the electron and the proton. online heat flow measurements especially for the
The wavelength, the distance between successive peaks in inspection of rotor blades are explained. Many examples
the oscillations of the electric and magnetic field, can vary also show the possibility to detect defects like poor
over a wide range representing a diverse range of bonding, delaminations and internal structural faults by
phenomena including radio transmissions, microwaves, using passive techniques. But more advanced techniques
infrared (IR), visible and ultraviolet (UV) light, x-rays and like active online thermography will demonstrate the
gamma rays. The IR portion of the electromagnetic outstanding results in finding even small defects in these
spectrum, which is of primary in interest to up to 65 m long rotor blades of wind turbines. The
thermographers, includes wavelengths from about 1 to experiments are shown as Figure 3 to Figure 6.
100m.[8] The interaction of materials with radiation of
different wavelengths is extremely varied.
Electromagnetic radiation may be absorbed, reflected, or
transmitted by a material, depending on the material
properties with respect to the wavelength in question. The
IR band of radiation is considered thermal in nature,
mostly because it contains the wavelengths of radiation
emitted by objects of ordinary temperatures.
An object with a single temperature does not simply
emit a single wavelength of electromagnetic radiation.
Because temperature is a macroscopic average of
molecular scale oscillations, there is, in fact, a distribution
of molecular kinetic energies underlying a single
temperature. Correspondingly, there is a distribution of
wavelengths and intensities of electromagnetic radiation
emitted by an object of a single temperature, as a result of Figure 3. Photo showing the passive inspection of the inner part of
the varied oscillation rates of the charged particles within. the rotor blade with an IR-camera[11]
Using a theoretical, idealized emitter termed a blackbody,
Planck first derived a mathematical expression for the
emissive power of radiation as a function of wavelength
and temperature, hence, it is known as the Planck
distribution. Qualitatively, at low temperatures, the shape
of the distribution is broad, without a well-defined peak.
At higher temperatures the distribution is narrower, and
the peak is very well defined. Figure 2 shows Planck
distributions, or blackbody curves.

Figure 4. Photo of the IR-camera during the passive inspection of

the blade[11]

Figure2. Blackbody Emissive Power vs. Wavelength


Infrared Thermography is often applied for monitoring
and failure identification of electronic and electric Figure5. Thermal image of the rotor blade from inside (top) and
components. Typical thermographic applications involve defect gluing indexed by red arrows on the leading edge (bottom)
the introduction of a controlled thermal load on the object observed from outside. [11]

In [17], this research work utilizes Infrared Thermal
Wave Nondestructive Testing system (EchoTherm,
Thermal Wave Imaging, Inc.) to inspect a specimen with
embedded defects (i.e. foreign matter and air inclusions)
in different depth which is a part of rotor blades in wind
turbine generators, we have successfully identified
defects including foreign matter and air inclusions, and
discovered a defective workmanship. The system software
allows us to simultaneously view and analyze the results
Figure6. Thermal image of the rotor while it is moving. The bright for an entire transition.
areas are warmer as the dark areas and show the heat production due to
mechanical loading (blue arrows). Thermal image of the rotor while it is In [18], an autonomous, novel and lightweight multi-
moving. The bright areas indicate delaminations produced by heat due to axis scanning system, deploying in-situ Infra Red
the friction of micro cracks. [11]
Thermography (IRT) based Non Destructive Testing
(NDT), on glass reinforced plastic (GRP) wind turbine
In [12], the Infrared Thermography is used by the
blades (WTBs), is developed. The scanner incorporates an
National Wind Technology Center at the National
intrinsic multi-degree-of-freedom (DOF) end-effector able
Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National
to comply and achieve successful adjustment on the
Laboratories collaborate on the testing of full size wind
complex contours of a WTB, automatically aligning at the
turbine blades. One of the tests performed on a wind
same time, the IRT equipment in proper position for
turbine blade is a fatigue test where a cyclic load is
inspection. The scanning system has been developed to
applied to the wind turbine blade until the blade fails. The
mimic the dexterity and Non-Destructive inspection
end of the blade closest to the viewer is being cycled up,
operations performed by an expert human operator. The
down, left and right in this photo. The blade-to-hub
entire system, scanning modules and end-effector, are
attachment, or root end, of the wind turbine blade is a
uniquely adapted to operate in remote locations, i.e. the
critical location that is always monitored. Most flaws are
100m blades utilised in offshore wind farms, as well as in
discontinuities having thermal properties that differ from
the factory environment when used in a quality assurance
the base material in the composite structure. A
delamination, disbond or void will typically have a lower
rate of thermal conductivity, resulting in heat being
locally trapped in the area containing the discontinuity. IV. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
The heat buildup transfers to the surface of the laminate, This paper discusses the current state of Infrared
showing the location and approximate size of the Thermography techniques in the wind turbine blades
discontinuity. High capacitance flaws, such as the ingress testing. Many researchers have done a lot of research
of water into the composite structure, result in a cooler works. These research works have demonstrated that
surface over the flaw area soon after heat is applied to the Passive and active Infrared thermography is a powerful
surface [13]. Two forms of thermographic inspection technique for the detection of different defects like
methods are currently available: the passive method delaminations, air bubbles, dry glass fiber reinforced and
measures laminate response to an applied transient heat structural faults.
source and the active method monitors response to heating
produced by applying a cyclic heat source[14]. The active However, Infrared thermography techniques are
method is also referred to as pulsed or transient mainly studied in the laboratory and have not been widely
thermography. The rate at which temperature changes used. Then some suggestions have been given, such as to
take place is often more important than the amplitude of put the research focus on the new denoising algorithms to
the temperature change which is usually only a few decrease the external interference. And Some companies
degrees centigrade. [15] started already to use passive thermography for the
detection of extended glue faults in the production
In [16], a digital infrared thermography camera as a
non-destructive evaluation (NDE) tool was explored in
two separate wind turbine blade fatigue tests. The first test ACKNOWLEDGMENT (HEADING 5)
was a fatigue test of part of a 13.1 meter wood-epoxy- This research is supported by the Science and
composite blade. The second test was on a4.25 meter Technology Nova Plan of Beijing City (A), the National
pultruded fiber glass blade section driven atseveral Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51005014), and
mechanical resonant frequencies. The digital infrared by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central
thermography can produce images of either the static Universities (No. FRF-BR-10-032B).
temperature distribution on the surface of the specimen, or
the dynamic temperature distribution that is in phase with
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