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NDT AND EDDY CURRENT TESTING After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

Explain how eddy currents are used in NDT. Explain why NDT is so important to our society.

Nondestructive testing (NDT) means exactly what the words say. NDT literally means testing materials without destroying them. In other words, we can look for defects in a variety of metallic materials using eddy currents and never harm the material that we are testing. This is important because if we destroy the material we are testing, it does not do much good to test it in the first place. NDT is very important because often the defects that we are looking for are not visible because paint or some other coating may cover them. There might also be defects that are so small they cannot be seen with our eyes or any other visual method of inspection. Therefore, inspection methods such as eddy current inspection have been developed to detect the defects. Try an Eddy Current Experiment In the experiment below you will use eddy current testing to detect cracks in a block of metal. You will notice that you are using a coil of wire wrapped around a piece of iron to generate the magnetic field that caused the eddy currents to form in the metal. In the field of NDT the coil is called the inspection probe. The magnetic field that is generated by the eddy currents can be detected using this same probe. We can monitor the magnetic field being produced by these eddy currents with an instrument called an eddyscope. If there is a change in the magnetic field from the eddy currents, we can tell that we have found some sort of defect in the material that we are testing. When the instrument sees a change in the magnetic field generated by the eddy currents, it displays a change in the signal on the screen.

As long as the material being tested is very uniform in every way, the eddy currents will be uniform and consistent. If there is some defect in the material such as a crack, the eddy currents will be disturbed from their normal circular shapes. NDT technicians use many different types of eddy current testing equipment. Some are simple coils that are held on a piece of metal. Others use special probes, like the one shown above, that are pushed inside of tube such as those in heat exchanger units. The technicians on the right are performing an eddy current inspection on the tube of a heat exchanger. Heat exchangers are used in places like nuclear power plants. Radioactive water from the reactor is circulated through the tubes and cooling water that will be returned to a river or lake is circulated on the outside of the tubes. It is very important that the radioactive water and the cooling water do not mix. Therefore, technicians perform eddy current inspections on the tubes to

find and defects that may be present before they become leaks in the tubing.

Review 1. NDT stands for "Nondestructive Testing." 2. NDT methods are used to test materials and parts without harming them. 3. Eddy current testing is just one of the methods used by technicians to find defects before they cause problems. EDDY CURRENTS After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

Explain what an Eddy Current is. Discuss the one requirement necessary for a current to be induced into an object.

In the discussion on the previous page you learned learned about electromagnetic induction. You learned that anytime a conductor was placed in a changing magnetic field that electrical current was generated in the conductor. We talked about the conductor being a piece of wire that is often wrapped into a coil, but the conductor does not need to be in the shape of a coil and does not even need to be wire. It could be a piece of flat steel, aluminum plate, or any other conductive object. The only requirement is that the object must be able to conduct electrical current.

When current is induced in a conductor such as the square piece of metal shown above, the induced current often flows in small circles that are strongest at the surface and penetrate a short distance into the material. These current flow patterns are thought to resemble eddies in a stream, which are the tornado looking swirls of the water that we sometimes see. Because of this presumed resemblance, the electrical currents were named eddy currents. Uses of eddy currents Just like in our transformer experiment, these induced eddy currents generate their own magnetic field. After all, this is an actual electrical current and any current flowing in a conductor produces a magnetic field, right? The detection and measurements of the strength of the magnetic fields produced by the eddy currents makes it possible for us to learn things about conductive materials without even contacting them. For example, the electrical conductivity of a material can be determined by the strength of the eddy currents that form. Also since cracks and other breaks in the surface of a material will prevent eddy currents from forming in that region of the surface, eddy currents can be used to detect cracks in materials.

This is referred to as eddy current testing in the field of nondestructive testing (NDT). NDT technicians and engineers use eddy current testing to find cracks and other flaws in part of airplanes and other systems where bad things can happen if the part breaks. On the next page you will learn more about eddy current testing and be able to try an inspection yourself.

Review 1. Any electrically conductive object will conduct an induced current if it is placed in a changing magnetic field. 2. Eddy currents are circular induced currents. 3. Eddy currents generate their own magnetic fields. ALTERNATING CURRENT After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

Define what AC stands for and what it means. Explain how AC is created and delivered to different places. Discuss the differences between AC and DC.

AC is short for alternating current. This means that the direction of current flowing in a circuit is constantly being reversed back and forth. This is done with any type of AC current/voltage source. The electrical current in your house is alternating current. This comes from power plants that are operated by the electric company. Those big wires you see stretching across the countryside are carrying AC current from the power plants to the loads, which are in our homes and businesses. The direction of current is switching back and forth 60 times each second.

This is a series circuit using an AC source of electricity. Notice that the light bulb still lights but the electron current is constantly reversing directions. The change in direction of the current flow happens so fast that the light bulb does not have a chance to stop glowing. The light bulb does not care if it is using DC or AC current. The circuit is delivering energy to the light bulb from the source, which, in this case, is a power plant.

Review 1. AC, or alternating current means the electrical current is alternating directions in a repetitive pattern. 2. AC is created by generators in power plants, and other sources. This AC current is delivered to our homes and businesses by the power lines we see everywhere. 3. The frequency of repetition of this current is 60 Hertz. This means the direction of the current changes sixty times every second. DIRECT CURRENT After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

Explain what DC stands for and what it means. Define what a good source of DC would be.

Now that we have a fairly good understanding of basic electricity terms and concepts, let's take a closer look at some more details of the electrical current itself. The battery we have been using for a current/voltage source generates direct current, which simply means the current flows in only one direction.

As long as electrons are flowing through the atoms of the circuit, work is being done. We can see that work is being done in this circuit because it lights the light bulb. The actual amount of electrons that are flowing is determined by the type and size of the battery as well as by the size and type of the light bulb. We could reverse the polarity of the battery by switching the contacts (wires), and the current would flow in the opposite direction and the bulb would still light. Either way the battery is connected to the circuit, current can only flow in one direction. Direct current (DC) can also be generated by means other than batteries. Solar cells, fuel cells, and even some types of generators can provide DC current.

Review 1. DC, or direct current means the electrical current is flowing in only one direction in a circuit. 2. Batteries are a good source of direct current (DC).