Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

July 28, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-4727) Kirsten Williams Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. (Phone: 804/864-6124) RELEASE: 93-137 NASA ADAPTING UNIQUE X-RAY SYSTEM TO INSPECT AIRCRAFT NASA is adapting an existing, cutting-edge x-ray system to improve inspections of aging aircraft while saving American industries money. The x-ray system, which combines TV-like scanning by x-ray beams with digital data acquisition, was originally intended for medical, dental and other industrial purposes. Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., have devised several unique aeronautical and aerospace applications for the system. "We want to take advantage of a novel system, slightly modify it and use it for aircraft," said Dr. Joseph Heyman, Head of Langley's Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch. "We will use it for measuring composite materials, for assessing damage growth in materials and for supporting tests to assess how structures behave under stress." To enhance safe air travel, Langley will adapt the system to inspect aircraft wings, turbines and propeller blades for corrosion, cracks and disbonding. "This research is part of our mandate to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to improve safety and reliability," Heyman said.

Because the system yields depth information, this x-ray technique also may be used by NASA to view how fibers mesh in three-dimensional composites and to monitor them for internal damage. Other potential uses include checking for changes in solid rocket fuel over time. "It's such a broad applications area," Heyman said. "I see it as a general purpose tool for NASA and for industry." -more-2Before NASA can employ the machine, researchers must miniaturize the system's sensors. They then can be inserted into internal structures to inspect entire aircraft, including hard-to-reach corners and crevices. Under a NASA contract, the Digiray Corp., which developed, patented and marketed the system, has boosted its power so thicker aircraft parts can be imaged. Langley researchers also must come up with methods to ensure the accuracy of the data and to enhance interpretation of the x-ray image. "We need to develop computational models that can take the data we obtain using the Digiray system and essentially map it into something that can be quantitatively interpreted," said Dr. William Winfree, a NASA senior researcher. "Other evaluation methods like ultrasonics and thermography exist, but are used for different purposes," Winfree added. "We believe that these types of technologies, which improve image quality, permit reliable airframe inspection and reduce cost." Transferring the Technology NASA hopes to sign a memorandum of agreement with Digiray Corp. that approves Langley's applications and adaptations. NASA has a rigorous technology transfer program to let aerospace technology permeate the private sector. Langley researchers will share these unique uses of the x-ray technology with commercial air fleets, as well as other industries. There also are potential spin-off uses, such as improved medical x-rays and assembly-line part scanning to control production quality. "This technology cooperation will expand the use for this

product and will help U.S industries maintain product quality," Heyman said. "We as a national lab should be a resource for U.S. industry, helping them become more competitive." -end-