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Electro-Mechanical Impedance Measurements in an Imitated Low Earth Orbit Radiation Environment

[+] Author Affiliations
Mary L. Anderson, Andrei N. Zagrai, David J. Westpfahl

New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, Socorro, NM

Joshua D. Daniel

White Sands Missile Range, Las Cruces, NM

Paper No. IMECE2016-66855, pp. V009T17A013; 9 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 9: Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Fluids; NDE, Diagnosis, and Prognosis
  • Phoenix, Arizona, USA, November 11–17, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5063-3
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Piezoelectric sensors are used in many structural health monitoring (SHM) methods to interrogate the condition of the structure to which the sensors are affixed or imbedded. Among SHM methods utilizing thin wafer piezoelectric sensors (PWAS), electro-mechanical impedance monitoring is seen as a promising approach to assess structural condition in the vicinity of a sensor. Using the converse and direct piezoelectric effects, this health monitoring method utilizes mechanical actuation and electric voltage to determine the impedance signature of the structure. If there is damage to the structure, there will be a change in the impedance signature. It is important to discern between actual damage and environmental effects on the piezoelectric ceramic sensors and the structure. If structural health monitoring is to be implemented in space structures on orbit, it is imperative to determine the effects of the extreme space environment on piezoelectric sensors and the structures to which they are affixed. The space environment comprises extreme temperatures, vacuum, atomic oxygen, microgravity, micro-meteoroids and debris, and significant amounts of radiation. Radiation in space comes from three sources: solar events, background cosmic radiation, and trapped particles in the Van Allen Belts. Radiation exposure to structures on orbit will vary significantly depending on the duration of the flight and the altitude and inclination of the orbit. In this contribution, the effect of gamma radiation on piezoelectric ceramic sensors and space grade aluminum is investigated for equivalent gamma radiation exposure to 3-months, six-months, and 1-year on Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

An experiment was conducted at White Sands Missile Range, Gamma Radiation Facility using Cobalt-60 as the source of radiation. A free PWAS and a PWAS bonded to a small aluminum beam were exposed to increasing levels of gamma radiation. Impedance data were collected for both sensors after each radiation exposure. The total radiation absorbed dose was 200 kRad (Si) by the end of the experiment. The results show that piezoelectric ceramic material is affected by gamma radiation. Over the course of increasing exposure levels to Cobalt-60, the impedance frequency of the free sensor increased with each absorbed dose. The impedance measurements of the sensor bonded to the aluminum beam reflects structural and sensor’s impedance. The data for this sensor show an increase in impedance amplitude with each level of absorbed dose. The mechanism at work in these impedance changes is suggested and future experimental work is identified. A survey of previous results of radiation exposure of piezoelectric ceramic sensors and aluminum alloys is presented and are compared to previous studies.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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