Industrial & Medical Technology

Bats inspire biomimetic approach to pipeline inspection

04 February 2020

A sequential schematic of the experimental set-up: The mechanical rig, controlled remotely by software running on a laptop, drives the system comprising the source, collimator and detectors. Source: M. Licata et al.A sequential schematic of the experimental set-up: The mechanical rig, controlled remotely by software running on a laptop, drives the system comprising the source, collimator and detectors. Source: M. Licata et al.

A scanning method inspired by the echolocation mechanism used by bats to navigate and hunt prey has been translated into a new non-destructive method for detecting corrosion and defects in oil and gas pipelines.

Similar to the way bats rely on reflections from different ultrasound wavelengths to maneuver, the inspection technique relies on reflected signals from a combination of isolated fast-neutron and gamma radiation to pinpoint corrosion. Unlike conventionally used ultrasonic or electromagnetic approaches, the new method is applicable to buried or heavily insulated pipelines. The biomimetic backscatter system uses a mixed field analyzer instrument developed by researchers from the U.K.’s Lancaster University, National Physical Laboratory Hybrid Instruments Ltd to record signals emitted by a thin beam of neutrons and gamma rays directed at steel pipeline sections.

Laboratory tests conducted on carbon steel samples of different thicknesses demonstrated the ability to measure thicknesses. The imaging technique also proved effective when applied to concrete or plastic used to simulate insulating layers. Variations in backscatter data were indicative of the presence of these materials as well as of rust or corrosion.

The researchers will continue advancing the method described in Scientific Reports to increase its speed and expand application to the inspection of other infrastructure.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com


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