Design of an Acoustic Sensor System to Predict Aero-Thermal Ablation

Photo of Theo Hardee, Connor Heep, Chi-Che Ma and Zoheb Noorani Students: Theo Hardee, Connor Heep, Chi-Che Ma and Zoheb Noorani

Sponsor: The University of Texas at Austin

Date: Spring 2012

Requirements:
The sample sizes and material place constraints on the characteristics of the waves emitted by the transducer. Because the velocity of sound within the provided materials (such as phenolic and porcelain) is in the order of 1,000 m/s and the desired resolution is near a 1/1000th of a meter, the frequency of the signals generated by the transducer should be near 1 MHz.

Problem:
This project focuses on designing an acoustic sensor system and software to accurately determine the recession rate of a simulated thermal protection system (TPS) during reentry.

Solution:
In developing the thermal acoustic sensor, the design team focused on the software package that goes with the acoustic sensor system, which required wire sized intrusive thermocouples, integration of multiple hardware to computer, and custom data acquisition software. This software package accepts numerous inputs from data acquisition hardware as well as from an oscilloscope through the USB port. The software uses temperature measurements and time-of-flight data to calculates the time for a sound wave to travel through the material and back.

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