An analytical model for defect depth estimation using pulsed thermography

Stefano Angioni, Francesco Ciampa, Fulvio Pinto, Gennaro Scarselli, Darryl Almond, Michele Meo

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The use of pulsed thermography as a non-destructive evaluation tool for damage monitoring of composite materials has dramatically increased in the past decade. Typically, optical flashes are used as external heating sources, which may cause poor defect definition especially for thicker materials or multiple delaminations. SMArt thermography is a new alternative to standard pulsed thermography as it overcomes the limitations on the use of external thermal sources. Such a novel technology enables a built-in, fast and in-depth assessment of both surface and internal material defects by embedding shape memory alloy wires in traditional carbon fibre reinforced composite laminates. However, a theoretical model of thermal wave propagation for SMArt thermography, especially in the presence of internal structural defects, is needed to better interpret the observations/data measured during the experiments. The objective of this paper was to develop an analytical model for SMArt thermography to predict the depth of flaws/damage within composite materials based on experimental data. This model can also be used to predict the temperature contrast on the surface of the laminate, accounting for defect depth, size and opening, thermal properties of material and defect filler, thickness of the component, and intensity of the excitation energy. The results showed that the analytical model gives good predictions compared to experimental data. This paper is one of the first pioneering work showing the use thermography as a quantitative non-destructive tool where defect size and depth could be assessed with good accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1122
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Mechanics
Issue number6
Early online date21 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Composite materials
  • Pulsed thermography
  • Embedded shape memory alloy wires
  • Analytical methods
  • Defect depth
  • Thermal properties


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