Imperial College NDE Group - Renewal of Platform Grant

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


The main objectives of the current platform grant from 2005-2010 were for the group to expand into super resolution (sub wavelength) imaging, to increase our profile in the Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) field and to extend the scope of the group's modelling work. An important factor in attaining these objectives was expected to be staff stability and the ability to undertake feasibility studies in a timely manner. The objectives have been met in full, with the group developing a world leading position in super resolution imaging including major collaborations with key US institutions, doing exciting work in SHM that has led to the formation of a new spin-out company, and greatly enhancing our finite element modelling capabilities. The chief objective for the next period is to develop a modern ultrasound technology under the umbrella of quantitative imaging. In medical diagnostics we will combine quantitative imaging science with the new and exciting findings of biomechanics. Moreover, our international lead in NDE will enable us to cross-fertilise between medical and engineering applications to the benefit of both communities.

Planned Impact

The work will benefit both the health and engineering sectors. In health, quantitative ultrasound imaging will improve current diagnostic technology providing an imaging modality that can be used as an adjunct to other available techniques, such as X-ray or MRI, to improve their sensitivity and limit the number of false positives, or even become the gold standard modality for the detection of some pathologies. This will contribute to better standards of care for patients and more effective screening programs which would limit the financial burden on the government. In engineering, improved imaging of defects will give more reliable sizing and so improved confidence in structural integrity assessments. This will increase the safety of critical plant and reduce unnecessary shutdowns due to the over-conservative assessments that are required if defects cannot be sized reliably. In both sectors, improved imaging represents a significant market opportunity for equipment suppliers; in the health sector these are primarily the major medical equipment suppliers while in the engineering sector there are both global companies and a substantial SME sector. There is therefore significant impact on population health, on the safety of plant operation, and on the medical and engineering instrumentation sectors. The overall direction of the research and engagement with beneficiaries will be overseen by a strategic advisory group with representation from both the medical and engineering sectors. In addition to presentations at conferences and journal publications, the health benefits will be promoted via direct links with clinicians, while the engineering benefits will be publicised to the industrial membership of the UK Research Centre in NDE which has its headquarters at Imperial. It is too early to decide on a precise exploitation route, but at the appropriate time this will be handled via Imperial Innovations Ltd; this has been very successful in the past, the group having spawned three spin-out companies and three other current licence agreements.


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Description We have developed new quantitative imaging methods for use with ultrasonic array data. These enable a reduction in the number of measurements needed for a given accuracy. This has led to applications in ultrasonic guided wave tomography that are being trialled in the petrochemical industry for quantifying corrosion damage in pipework at inaccessible locations.

The flexibility of the platform grant allowed us to change direction to investigate a new approach to structural health monitoring, exploiting the ability of permanently installed sensors to give frequent data. Hitherto, most work in this field had ignored the possibility of generating data quasi-continuously and processing this stream of data to look for changes. We have shown that this greatly improves the reliability of change detection and enables the reliable detection of much smaller defects. This will greatly enhance the attractiveness of permanently installed monitoring and facilitate the automatic processing of data that is essential if many sensors are deployed on a facility.
Exploitation Route The work will be exploited in the NDE sector and by major end users such as the oil companies
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Energy

Description The work on automated inspection and health monitoring has led to industrial trials and, in the case of health monitoring, new industrial procedures that are now being used commercially. The initial work on this grant led to further work on health monitoring and, for example, over 400 permanently installed guided wave inspection systems have been installed worldwide and newer ones are being supplied with permanently installed instrumentation so that data is supplied directly to the operator and trend monitoring can be implemented.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description EPSRC responsive mode
Amount £287,770 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N015533/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 04/2019