Commercialisation of CHOTs

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Div of Electrical Systems and Optics

Abstract

Non-destructive testing is not only big business but it is critical to big businesses. Without it aeroplanes couldn't fly, electricity wouldn't be generated and petrol wouldn't be produced. It is a critical component in any safety critical business. One of the most widely used and versatile tools for non destructive testing is ultrasonic inspection. In the main this uses piezo-electric transducers to perform the inspection. These are typically match-box sized and are connected to the sample using a couplant gel or water and connected to the instrumentation (pulser) via a coaxial wire. Piezo-electric transducers are bulky, expensive and don't like harsh conditions (such as high temperatures). Because they are connected to the instrumentation by wires and need to be in contact with the sample (or a water bath) they are difficult to use in many situations - for instance on the wing of an aircraft, in a gas turbine engine or on a wind turbine.

CHOTs is an alternative technology to piezo-electric transducers. Ultrasonically they behave the same as piezo-electric transducers but they are very small and cheap and they are probed wirelessly without contact between the instrumentation and the transducer using laser beams. In addition the CHOTs transducers themselves can be made in a wide variety of ways and from a wide variety of materials, including from the sample or test piece itself. Consequently they can be used in hazardous environments. They typically have near zero thickness so they can be left on the sample with negligible impact on its use. Because they are very cheap it would be possible to cover a structure with CHOTs that are left in situ for future testing.

The CHOTs transducers are operated wirelessly using lasers and can be probed remotely (theoretically >100m) as well as close up. This makes CHOTs an attractive system where access is difficult or dangerous. In this proposal we want to turn our research based laboratory CHOTs system into an instrument that can be used in industry. We will use the original EPSRC research and some recent advances to make a system based on optical fibres that will allow CHOTs to be used in three ways: with a hand held scanner (like a bar code reader), with a tripod mount remote scanner and down an endoscope for inspecting the inside of difficult to reach structures such as gas turbines.

We want to license the technology to instrument manufacturers who can then make and sell CHOTs systems to end users in industry. We will work closely with both instrument manufacturers and end users as we design and build our system and we will demonstrate it and lend it out for evaluation. The system will be very simple to use and very familiar to users of existing piezo-electric systems (with the exception of using non contact CHOTs transducers) so that it will integrate directly into their measurement systems.

Planned Impact

This Follow-on Fund project concerns the commercialisation of CHOTs laser ultrasound technology for industrial NDE/T use.

Obvious potential beneficiaries of the CHOTs technology are instrument manufacturers. Though we haven't ruled out spin-out company formation the preferred route to commercialisation is licensing the technology to one or more existing instrument manufacturers who will have new product lines to exploit, both in sale of systems and CHOTs consumables. We believe CHOTs technology to be a platform technology which has good opportunity to replace a substantial share of the existing piezo-electric ultrasound market and develop new application areas. It would be reasonable to assume a company could have a product available on the market within 2 years of a licensing deal, though likely take longer to realise its full potential.


There are a range of end-users/sectors who have the potential to benefit from CHOTs technology including the aerospace, power generation, chemical and petroleum, automotive, primary metals & foundry, defence and university sectors, all existing users of ultrasound NDT/E technology. The advantages of CHOTs are clear and the technology has the ability to not only make the evaluation of components simpler and dramatically reduce costs, but also to allow in-service evaluation of structures where this is not currently possible; this can provide major cost and safety benefits. In the field, the new technology will require no major conceptual change from current NDE procedures- it will be compatible with existing practice and this will therefore ease its industrial acceptance.


In addition, the researchers Teti Stratoudaki and Richard Smith will benefit from broader exposure to developing technology for commercial application, understanding commercial needs and working in the end-users' commercial environments.

In the longer term, there is the potential to use of CHOTs in a broader range of applications, though these still need to be explored and developed. Applications already envisaged include:

* Ubiquitous sensing: CHOTs can form the basis of remotely accessed sensors based on the many applications of ultrasonic sensors (such as SAW / BAW and QMB sensors). These could be used to remotely measure chemical concentration, temperature, pressure and mass.

* Theoretically CHOTs can be shrunk to the nanoscale and could provide a method to non destructively test nano engineered materials and components. This is a significant problem as NDE/T is essential to the adoption of these materials in safety critical application areas such as aerospace.

* CHOTs based sensors could be so cheap they could be incorporated in food packaging. This could result in the "smart yoghurt pot" so that products could be tested for safety and freshness at the same time they are scanned at the till.

* CHOTs offer many unique testing possibilities which could make significant differences in materials science research - for instance online monitoring of elastic properties during work could lead to a better understanding of processes such as creep, corrosion and fatigue.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project built an endoscopic CHOTs demonstrator. It proved that it was possible to deliver the CHOTs instrumentation via optic fibre in a manner compatible with endoscopes and capable of accessing remote components through a small hole.
Exploitation Route The system will undergo further refinement and is in use as an non destructive evaluation tool and for performing chemical sensing using CHOTs. This demonstrator has been demonstrated to many industrialist including end users and instrument makers. It will see further use at trade shows and in University technology demonstration days.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Electronics,Energy,Transport

 
Description Producing a portable demonstrator and sample test demonstration out of the lab contributed to overcoming the CHOTs commercialisation entry barrier which was due to the uncertainty of the equipment manufacturers and end-users with regard to system mobility. The system demonstration out of the lab helped convince the manufacturers and industrial community in feasibility of using CHOTs system in the real world and its potential for further development.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
 
Description Collaboration with (Rolls Royce and) SCHOTT 
Organisation SCHOTT Solar Concentrated Solar Power
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution A collaboration between Rolls Royce, Nottingham University (ESOD) and SCHOTT to design/create a prototype endoscope system for CHOTs complying with the end-user industrial requirements.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Collaboration with Rolls Royce and SCHOTT 
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution A collaboration between Rolls Royce, Nottingham University (ESOD) and SCHOTT to design/create a prototype endoscope system for CHOTs complying with the end-user industrial requirements. A three-sided collaboration with SCHOTT with support from Rolls Royce to create an experimental protoptype for endoscopic system that can be later applied for testing in industry.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Improved detection system 
Description Addition of a new 200mW laser replacing a 60mW laser for improved signal detection capabilities and SNR. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
 
Title In-situ CHOT fabrication method with LIFT 
Description A method developed to produce CHOTs on the sample surface in-situ, using Laser Induced Forward Transfer (LIFT) technique.It allows production of CHOTs on hard-to-reach or in-service components. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
 
Title Portable CHOTs demonstrator 
Description CHOT system miniaturisation, enclosing and creation of a portable demonstrator allowing out of the lab experiment demonstration. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
 
Title Process for Transferable CHOT 
Description Developed fabrication process for creation of a transferable CHOT whereby a CHOT is created on a carrier film in a lab and can be later delivered and applied to the component in-situ when and where it is required. It will allow testing of curved, large size components challenging for in-lab CHOT application. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
 
Description CHOTs NDT potential demonstrated 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Experimental demonstration of the CHOTs system potential for non-destructive testing by successful defect detection on fabricated and industrial samples with comparison to the conventional methods (as a result of the discussions with the industrial partners).

Briefly describe any notable impacts that arose from this activity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description RCNDE Technology Transfer Event - presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of CHOTs technology: overview.

Overview of the CHOT technology mainly for industrial audience, presentations preceding demonstration of the the system.

Briefly describe any notable impacts that arose from this activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description System Demonstration RCNDE 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Demonstration of defect detection experiment using portable demonstrator at the RCNDE Technology Transfer Event at Hilton Hotel, Nottingham, 27 January 2014.

Demonstration of the endoscopic defect detection experiment using portable CHOTs demonstrator to mainly industrial audience.

Briefly describe any notable impacts that arose from this activity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description System demonstration at IOP Optics and Ultrasound Day at UON 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Laboratory demonstration of the endoscopic CHOT system and defect detection experiments to Optics and Ultrasound Day visitors at the University of Nottingham.

Experimental system demonstration following oral presentation.

Briefly describe any notable impacts that arose from this activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013