American Machinist

Revealing cracks before structural components fail.(Technology trends)

RESEARCHERS ARE INVESTIGATING HOW COMMON structural components break under strain using a system that reconstructs growing cracks in common structural materials. The microtopography system, designed and built at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), could improve building design and analysis and bolster the safety of structures ranging from aircraft to waste-storage tanks.

Until now, researchers have relied on surface measurements to see how components crack. But this only reveals part of the picture, according to INEEL research engineer Randy Lloyd, who developed the process. He says that it's not unusual for the center of a crack to grow faster than it does at the surface (called crack tunneling). …

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