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Science for Safety
August 29, 2014   
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Researchers from the AGH University of Science and Technology in the southern city of Cracow have developed five innovative systems that will help construction and repair companies as well as airlines and rail carriers carry out safety checks. The researchers have gone commercial with their systems through the SHM Monit company founded by a team of scientists led by Prof. Tadeusz Uhl.

The monitoring systems make it possible to check the technical condition of aircraft and civil engineering facilities and structures such as bridges, towers, chimneys and pipelines as well as critical aircraft components. They are also used in the chemical industry.

These five systems, the result of a research project pursued under the European Union’s Innovative Economy Operational Programme, use a variety of technologies. The first applies vibrothermography, or thermal excitation of a structure by means of ultrasound and recording temperature changes on the surface. Where there is damage or microcracks, the temperature is higher. It is possible to locate the trouble spot and assess its size. SHM Monit uses this system to examine the state of wind turbine blades, for example. The system has generated a lot of interest among companies dealing with repairing and overhauling aircraft. It is also suitable for the evaluation of welded joints. The method is quick and cheap.

The second system is based on measuring electro-mechanical impedance, or the response of an electric circuit to high frequencies. If there is a failure in the circuit, the impedance—or the effective resistance of an electric circuit or component to alternating current—changes. Researchers measure these changes and gain an insight into the condition of facilities such as pipelines used in the chemical industry.

The third system is based on observing and measuring deformations in structures such as bridges, chimneys and tall buildings via image analysis.

The fourth system tracks changes in vibrations generated by passing cars. “Infrastructure around the world is aging and must be constantly monitored in order to operate safely,” says Uhl.

The fifth system is for analyzing the propagation of surface waves to examine airplane fuselages. The system has attracted a lot of interest in the aviation industry.

SHM Monit aims to go commercial with the solutions developed by the university’s scientists. It has signed licensing agreements and the university receives a fee for each transaction.

“I think a company [like this] has a much greater chance of being successful in terms of implementation than a university,” says Uhl. “The company has completely different requirements as to the way it works, sells and provides information to customers than in research work. On the other hand, commercial activity requires taking risks. A potential failure means financial consequences. Research work is free from such risk.”

SHM Monit has 12 employees. These are former students from the AGH University of Science and Technology whose academic background has prepared them for this kind of work.

Karolina Olszewska
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