Using neutrons to show weak spots in turbines, railway lines and pipes

From pipes to power station turbines and railway lines, ensuring that engineering components perform under pressure can save lives.

By scattering neutrons from the OPAL research reactor across an object—such as a complex power station turbine—the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) can test the integrity and safety of metal components.

Anna Paradowska with Mehdi Soodi (Laser Manager from Hardchrome Engineering) setting up the turbine blade for neutron measurements. Credit: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Anna Paradowska with Mehdi Soodi (Laser Manager from Hardchrome Engineering) setting up the turbine blade for neutron measurements. Credit: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

This proactive approach to maintenance is helping to safeguard the power industry from millions of dollars in damage and potential loss of life or injury. For example, ANSTO is helping Hardchrome Engineering test their refurbished turbines and provide a subatomic ‘seal of approval’ for the safety of repairs undertaken.

Hardchrome Engineering has developed an innovative process for repairing instead of replacing components; significantly reducing operational costs and wastage. Comprehensive stress testing is crucial as turbine failure could be catastrophic.

“Neutron scattering can be used to analyse and refine production techniques to improve efficiency and ensure accidents don’t happen,” says Industrial Liaison Manager Anna Paradowska, a senior research scientist at ANSTO.

The railway industry has also used neutron scattering research techniques to look into the problem of weak spots on rails.

By analysing rails provided by the Australian Track and Rail Corporation and Queensland Rail, ANSTO was able to determine how the rails were damaged and advise on ways to manage rail fatigue.

The Jemena and Zinfra Group are also using neutron scattering to test pipes and pipelines across Australia to ensure seals are working as they should.

For more information: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Anna Paradowska, anp@ansto.gov.au, www.ansto.gov.au

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