08 Jul 2020
Infrastructures and Built Environment
Using Waves to Analyse the Condition of a Structure
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Aging public infrastructures are a worldwide and increasingly critical problem. Our dams and bridges, for example, are reaching the end of their useful life. The cost of replacing them is so high that countries are seeking ways to extend their use over several decades. Ultrasonic nondestructive testing is one of the best ways to accomplish this. It involves using waves and a range of techniques to analyze the condition of a structure or a material without damaging it.
Pierre Bélanger has been a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at ÉTS since 2013. His research is focused on examining ultrasonic wave propagation and looking at ways in which these waves can be used in different industrial and biomedical applications. After earning a Ph.D. at the world-renowned Imperial College London in England, Dr. Bélanger worked as a simulator test and development engineer with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 racing team before joining ÉTS, where he now combines his instrumentation expertise with his knowledge of the propagation of ultrasonic waves.
The Olympus Chair
Pierre Bélanger’s work attracted the attention of Olympus, a global technology leader in precision technologies. Their Industrial Solutions Division works to develop and manufacture very high-precision inspection tools. Dr. Bélanger began a collaboration with this Japanese company, which led to the launch of the Olympus Industrial Research Chair on Ultrasonic Nondestructive Testing, of which he is chairholder.
Technology transfer to other fields
Promising research is currently underway to adapt the method used by Pierre Bélanger to map corrosion in infrastructures to the biomedical field, including bone characterization. This technology transfer could be used to diagnose osteoporosis and assess the elasticity of the spinal cord in cases of spinal cord injuries.
Advantages of ultrasonic waves and artificial intelligence
A small environmental footprint and low cost make it very attractive to use ultrasonic waves. But this technology is complex and requires modelling and simulation. Luckily, Dr. Bélanger and his team have considerable expertise in this area. Through recent advances, they have been able to collect enough ultrasonic testing data to be able to use artificial intelligence, which improves data interpretation. Research in this field has a bright future.