Technology that Detects Material Fatigue and Embrittlement

11 November 2001

Positron Systems has announced the availability of a new, nondestructive testing technology that can precisely detect component fatigue and embrittlement at the atomic level.

The patented technology can detect fatigue and embrittlement in materials at its earliest level and can quantifiably assess the remaining useful life of metallic, composite and polymer materials. This advancement in nondestructive testing will help companies prevent component failure due to fatigue cracks and safely extend the service life of expensive and critical parts, such as those used in aircraft, bridges and nuclear reactors.

Positron Systems' Photon Induced Positron Annihilation (PIPA) technology detects fatigue, embrittlement and other forms of structural damage in bulk materials at the atomic level, before a crack appears. PIPA can also accurately determine the remaining life of various materials and is more precise than any other existing nondestructive evaluation technology on the market, including radiography, eddy current, ultrasonic, or other nondestructive evaluation methods. The technology was invented by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and licensed to Positron Systems for commercial use.

""Fatigue and embrittlement are multi-billion dollar problems that cause material failures, downtime, premature replacement of expensive parts, and in some cases loss of human life,"" said Steve Bolen, Positron Systems' chief executive officer. ""Early detection of fatigue and embrittlement damage and identifying the remaining useful life of components will save money, increase safety and extend the uninterrupted operation of critical parts such as those used in aircraft, nuclear reactors and power generation facilities.""

The PIPA process involves penetrating materials with a photon beam generated by a linear accelerator. This process creates positrons, which are attracted to nano-sized defects in the material. Eventually, the positrons collide with electrons in the material and are annihilated releasing energy in the form of gamma rays. The gamma ray energy spectrum creates a distinct and readable signature of the size, quantity and type of defects present in the material.

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