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NASA honors Argonne's Ellingson

ARGONNE, Ill. (Feb. 8, 2005) — Bill Ellingson, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, was honored in 2004 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for his work on ceramic composite components.

Ellingson and colleagues from the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory were the recipients of NASA's Turning Goals Into Reality Award. The award celebrates the year's most significant accomplishments that add to the NASA legacy and honors recipients for their contributions to the advancement of aviation and space technology.

Ellingson was part of the Coated Ceramic Matrix Composite Components Team. The group was honored for its work on nondestructive evaluation development for ceramic components.

The award recognizes a large scope of work that began with funding from NASA for technology development related to propulsion engines and then continued with DOE funding for application of the technology to gas turbine engines.

Ellingson, who works in Argonne's Energy Technology Division (now Nuclear Engineering Division), and his colleagues have developed non-destructive inspection methods and protocols for ceramic engine components. These inspections, called health or condition monitoring, can help determine if these expensive components are still functioning properly or if they need to be repaired or replaced. “It's really no different than you or I going in for an annual check-up,” explained Ellingson.

Researchers developed three types of inspection methods. The first is based on infrared imaging. “We've written all our own software,” said Ellingson.

The second method is non-contact, air-coupled ultrasound. “This is important,” said Ellingson, “because it is unacceptable to contaminate these components with water or gel.”

The third method is X-ray CAT scans. Ellingson and his colleagues have developed their own machine with very high spatial resolution.

The protocol for using these methods is to first run the thermal imaging test, which is the fastest, and then the ultrasound. If the results agree, no further testing is necessary. However, if there is any disagreement in the test results, the CAT scan is run.

Comparing the results of all three tests helps to avoid rejecting a part that isn't actually damaged. “We can't afford to have false positives,” said Ellingson. “These components can cost $100,000 per part.”

This is not the first award Ellingson has received for this project. It was also recognized in 2001 with a Research Partnership Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Last Modified: Wed, April 20, 2016 9:33 AM


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