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Berkeley Researchers Develop Real-Time CT-Scan Test Rig for Ceramic Composites

Advanced ceramic composites can withstand the ultrahigh operational temperatures projected for hypersonic jet and next generation gas turbine engines, but real-time analysis of the mechanical properties of these space-age materials at ultrahigh temperatures has been a challenge – until now.
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed the first testing facility that enables CT-scanning of ceramic composites under controlled loads at ultrahigh temperatures and in real-time. Working at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a premier source of X-ray and ultraviolet light beams, the scientists created a mechanical testing rig for performing X-ray computed microtomography that reveals the growth of microcrack damage under loads at temperatures up to 1750 °C. This allows engineers to compute a ceramic composite material’s risk of structural or mechanical failure under extreme operating conditions, which in turn should enable the material’s performance and safety to be improved. ALS Beamline 8.3.2, which is powered by a 6 Tesla superconducting bend magnet, is designed for X-ray computed microtomography, a technology that provides non-destructive 3D imaging of solid objects at a resolution of approximately 1 µm. With the addition of their unique tensile testing rig, the researchers maintain in situ ultrahigh temperature environments in either inert or oxidizing atmospheres while obtaining real-time 3D images of sample microstructures. (12/2012)

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