Ultrasonic ply-by-ply detection of matrix cracks in laminated composites
Ganpatye, Atul Shridatta
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In the design of cryogenic fuel tanks for the next generation Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLVs), the permeability of liquid hydrogen (LH2) across the thickness of the tank is a critical issue. The rate of permeation of LH2 is largely dependent on the internal damage state of the composite tank wall. Damage in the form of matrix cracks in the composite material of the tank is responsible for the through-the-thickness permeation of LH2. In this context, the detection of matrix cracks takes on an unprecedented significance. In this work, an ultrasonic technique for the ply-by-ply detection of matrix cracks in laminated composites is developed. Experimental results are presented for graphite/epoxy laminates with different lay-ups and laminate thicknesses. Matrix cracks in each of the plies of the laminated composites were detected even when there was a rather high density of cracks in all of the plies. The ultrasonic data were calibrated by comparing them with the corresponding results obtained by using the traditional methods of optical microscopy and penetrant enhanced X-radiography. Excellent quantitative correlation was observed between the results obtained with ultrasonics and the traditional methods.