2008 NSTI Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show - Nanotech 2008 - 11th Annual

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TechConnect Summit
Clean Technology 2008

NASA NDE Applications for Mobile MEMS Devices and Sensors

W.C. Wilson
NASA Langley Research Center, US

mobile devices, MEMS, sensors, nondestructive evaluation, NDE

NASA requires new devices and sensors to perform nondestructive evaluation (NDE) of aerospace vehicles. These devices must be small in size/volume, weight, and power consumption. The devices also must be autonomous and mobile, so they can access internal structures of aircraft and spacecraft to provide adequate coverage for structural monitoring. These mobile platforms will carry NDE sensors to evaluate the structural integrity and to determine whether further investigations will be required, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology is crucial to the development of the mobile platforms and sensor systems. The largest benefit for these devices will be their ability to provide data from the most inaccessible places; therefore, the devices will need to be small to access the internal extremities of aircraft and spacecraft. The devices will also require mobility to access these areas. For mobility, a range of locomotion alternatives could be investigated. Work is progressing on miniature robots that can slither, crawl, and stick to walls. Micro robots that move on tracks, walk [1], and fly [2] (Fig. 1) have been developed. For NDE applications, micro sensors that can perform a host of noninvasive techniques including thermography, laser ultrasonic inspection, terahertz imaging, visual inspection, corrosion detection, and eddy current/hysteresis measurements, will need to be developed using MEMS technology. The mobile platform will need more than rudimentary processing capabilities to condense the data from the sensor into a viable form for wireless transmission to a base station within range. The devices will also need autonomous, onboard decision making abilities. These capabilities are necessary for both locomotion and for performing search patterns to ensure proper coverage when looking for defects and damage. As an example of a mobile NDE microsensor system, the concept for a micro robotic MEMS laser ultrasonic system [3] is shown in Figure 2. The device consists a stack of substrates with a layer for the MOEMS optical components of the laser ultrasonic sensor, a layer for the electronics, and the bottom layer for the micro robotic walking platform. Although today’s technologies are not mature enough to fabricate these devices, they are mature enough to begin a coordinated effort and prototyping to realize a micro NDE agent in the near future. This paper will present research opportunities for universities and industry to develop micro mobile platforms and MEMS sensor suites that will enable NDE of aerospace vehicles.

Nanotech 2008 Conference Program Abstract