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Accuracy: the extent to which an estimated or measured value approaches the actual true
value (related to systematic errors associated with an experiment or an instrument).
Acoustic emission testing: a technique which enables the detection of flaws by monitoring
acoustic signals caused by plastic deformation of structures.
Acoustic impact testing: a technique which uses variations in sound from the tapping of
an object on a surface to detect surface anomalies in components.
Algorithm: a set of rules which specifies a sequence of actions to be taken to solve a
problem. Each rule is precisely and unambiguously defined so it can be carried out by a
machine (computer).
Alpha particle: (a) a positively charged particle emitted in radioactive decay of gamma
Alternating current magnetisation: magnetisation of a material induced by a magnetic
field generated by an alternating current.
Angle ultrasonic transducer: a sensor which transmits ultrasonic energy at a specific
angle to the surface of a component.
Arc strikes: burn damage to a material caused by the breaking of an active electric circuit.
Array sensor system: a group of sensors combined in one system to reduce measurement
A-scan: a cathode ray tube image which displays signal amplitude against sweep time.
A-to-D converter: an apparatus which converts an analogue signal into a digital signal.
Bayesian statistical inference: a decision rule used to make probabilistic inference about
Beam spread: the divergence of an ultrasonic wave traversing a medium.
Brittle fracture: rupture in a material without prior plastic deformation.
B-scan: a 2-D image of the cross-section of a component inspected.
Calibration slots: artificial slots or defects manufactured in a standard material to
calibrate an instrument prior to inspection.
Coercive force: the magnetic field strength required to reduce remanent magnetism to
Coil: a conducting material shaped in the form of one or multiple loops which can induce
magnetic fields when conveying an electric current.
Convection: term used to describe the transfer of heat due to temperature differences.
Conversion screen: a screen used to convert incident photons in another form of energy.
C-scan: a 2-D plan of the scanned surface of a component inspected.
Curie: an international unit of the rate of radioactive activity (1 Ci = 3.7 x 1010
disintegrations per second).
Dead zone: the zone after an ultrasonic pulse where additional echo cannot be detected.
Defect: a flaw or discontinuity in a material which may affect its structural integrity and/or
may make it unsuitable for the task it has been designed for.
Diamagnetic material: material repelled by a magnet and with a magnetic permeability of
less than 1.
Ductile fracture: a break in a material which has undergone plastic deformation.
Eddy current examination: detection and quantification of surface and sub-surface flaws
through measurement of the variations in an electric current induced by a time-varying
magnetic field into the material inspected.
Edge effect: phenomenon which causes signal distortion when a probe approaches the
edge of a sample.
Electromagnet: a ferromagnetic material which behaves as a magnet when the coil
surrounding it is energised by an electric current.
Electron: a negatively charged subatomic particle of 1.602 x 10 ~ 19 coulombs.
EMAT: apparatus generating ultrasonic, horizontally polarised shear waves from a coil
excited by an AC placed close to the surface of a conductive material.
Far field: (also known as Fraunhofer zone): the distance at which the decrease of
ultrasonic signal amplitude is inversely proportional to the distance of the surface of the
material inspected from the sensor.
Ferromagnetic material: a material whose magnetic resistivity and magnetic permeabil-
ity are high and depend upon the strength of the magnetising field (e.g. iron, nickel,
cobalt). Usually exhibits the hysteresis phenomenon.
Fill factor: a term used to describe the level of electromagnetic couplage occurring
between a test coil and the material that surrounds it.
Fuzzy logic: a theory developed to quantitatively express imprecision between categories
in the form of membership functions.
Gating: the process of selecting a portion of a signal on account of time, magnitude or
Gauss: a unit of magnetic flux density.
Hall effect: a change in voltage which occurs at right angles to the direction of the electric
current and the magnetic field in a conductor stimulated by an electric current.
Heuristic programme: a programme which attempts to improve its own performance as a
result of learning from previous actions within the programme.
Heuristic rules: approach based on commonsense rules and trial and error rather than
comprehensive theory.
Holography: an optical imaging process in which reflected light from an object is
captured on photographic film without the use of a lens.
Hue: the characteristic in which a colour can be classified as red, green, blue, etc.
Hysteresis loop: a closed curve formed by plotting the magnetic flux density B versus the
magnetic field H.
IACS: a standard conductivity measurement in which the conductivity of the unalloyed
copper is set at 100 per cent.
Image processing: technique used to filter and enhance the quality of an image.
Image quality indicator: a small reference specimen radiographed with the specimen
under test to ensure the quality of a radiograph.
Image segmentation: refers to the division of an image into multiple regions. Specific
parameters representative of a scene are used for selection of each region before
segmentation occurs. Such parameters are image intensity, texture, colour, spatial
arrangement, shape and geometry.
Impedance: the resistance of a material to the passage of an electric current.
Inductance: the magnetism produced in a ferromagnetic material by an external
magnetising force.
Infrared radiation: the region of the electromagnetic spectrum associated with heat
Intensifying screen: metallic or fluorescent screen used to convert incident X-radiation
into light energy or electrons.
Knowledge-based system: a software system composed of a knowledge-based module
and an inference engine used to assist in decision making.
LASER (Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation): an apparatus which
produces a beam of coherent light.
Leak detection: a technique which consists of injecting a search gas into a sealed
enclosure and monitoring loss of gas to check for leaks.
Lenz's law: if an emf is induced in a material, an electrical current is created which flows
in a direction which tends to oppose the cause of the induced emf.
Lift-off: a term used to describe the distance between the test coil and the test object.
Liquid penetrant testing: a method of inspection where the surface of the component to
be tested is covered with a visible penetrating liquid which concentrates in cracks.
Magnetic field inspection: a technique used to detect surface and sub-surface defects by
monitoring the variation of a magnetic field induced in the material tested.
Magnetic permeability: the ease with which a magnetic field can be induced in a material.
Magnetic susceptibility: the amount by which the relative magnetic permeability of a
medium differs from unity.
Magnetising force: the force used to create a magnetic flux in a magnetic circuit.
Maxwell's equations: fundamental equations of electromagnetic field theory.
Measurand: the physical quantity measured by an instrument.
Microwave testing: the detection of microwave radiation directed onto a test component
is used to check the presence of flaws in composites.
MPI: a NDT technique in which the component tested is magnetised and magnetic
particles are sprayed onto its surface to reveal cracks.
Multifrequency system: apparatus capable of generating more than one frequency in a
sequential or simultaneous manner.
Multi-layer perceptron: (also known as feed-forward network): a type of neural network
in which the nodes are arranged in layers. It is composed of an input layer, an output layer
and any number of hidden layers.
Multisensor data fusion: a theory which can be described as the synergistic use of
information from multiple sources to assist in the overall understanding of a phenomenon,
and to measure evidence or combine decisions.
Near field zone (also known as the Fresnel zone): disturbance zone after the initial
ultrasonic pulse in which defects cannot be sized or detected.
Neural network: computer system designed to produce a set of output values from a set
of input data.
Non-ferromagnetic material: a material into which a magnetic field cannot be induced.
Paramagnetic: a phenomenon in some materials in which the susceptibility to magnetism
is positive and the magnetic permeability is slightly higher than unity and independent of
the magnetising force.
Precision: related to the random error distribution associated with an experiment or an
Prods: hand-held electrodes used to pass magnetising current through a material.
Pulse-echo method: an ultrasonic method which uses back-echoes to detect flaws in
Radiographic inspection: X-ray, gamma or neutron radiography techniques which use
penetrating radiation to detect internal faults in components.
Rayleigh wave: an ultrasonic wave which propagates at or near the surface of a material.
Remanent magnetic field (also known as residual magnetic field): the magnetic field
remaining in a ferromagnetic material after reducing the magnetising force to zero.
Resolution: a measure of the capability of an instrument to distinguish between two
signals at very small distances from each other.
SAFT: ultrasonic technique based on the concept of collecting waveforms from a
scanning transducer and processing them as a single unit.
Sensitivity: the lowest limit of detectability of a signal, defect or detail on an image.
Signal-to-noise ratio: the ratio of signal amplitude to noise amplitude.
Skin depth: the depth at which the intensity of an induced eddy current has decreased to
37 per cent of the surface value.
Skin effect: a phenomenon by which high frequency electrical currents tend to be
concentrated in the thin layer of conductors.
Skip distance: the distance from the point at which the ultrasound beam first enters the
test specimen to the point at which the back-reflected pulse first encounters the front
Synergism: combination of the action of two or more sensors resulting in enhancement of
the efficiency of a process.
Thermal conductivity: a measure of the rate of heat flow through a given area and
thickness in the presence of a temperature gradient.
Thermography: technique which consists of mapping isotherms over a surface.
TOFD: an ultrasonic technique based on measuring the time separating two diffracted
waves from the defect extremities.
Transmission: a physical process by which energy waves travel through a medium.
Ultrasonic testing: a technique which uses variations in the echoes of ultrasonic pulses
injected into a material to detect and size internal defects.
Vibrothermography: a thermal inspection technique which uses cyclic vibrations to
induce heat into a material.
Visual inspection: an optical technique carried out with or without optical aids to inspect
the surface of materials.