Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dryver Huston


Harsh environment acoustic emission and ultrasonic wave sensing applications often benefit from placing the sensor in a remote and more benign physical location by using waveguides to transmit elastic waves between the structural location under test and the transducer. Waveguides are normally designed to have high fidelity over broad frequency ranges to minimize distortion - often difficult to achieve in practice. This thesis reports on an examination of using nonlinear ball chain waveguides for the transmission of acoustic emission and ultrasonic waves for the monitoring of thermal protection systems undergoing severe heat loading, leading to ablation and similar processes. Experiments test the nonlinear propagation of solitary, harmonic and mixed harmonic elastic waves through a copper tube filled with steel and elastomer balls and various other waveguides. Triangulation of pencil lead breaks occurs on a steel plate. Data are collected concerning the usage of linear waveguides and a water-cooled linear waveguide. Data are collected from a second water-cooled waveguide monitoring Atmospheric Reentry Materials in UVM's Inductively-Coupled Plasma Torch Facility.

The motion of the particles in the dimer waveguides is linearly modeled with a three ball and spring chain model and the results are compared per particle. A theoretical nonlinear model is presented which is capable of exactly modeling the motion of the dimer chains. The shape of the waveform propagating through the dimer chain is modeled in a sonic vacuum. Mechanical pulses of varying time widths and amplitudes are launched into one end of the ball chain waveguide and observed at the other end in both time and frequency domains. Similarly, harmonic and mixed harmonic mechanical loads are applied to one end of the waveguide. Balls of different materials are analyzed and discriminated into categories. A copper tube packed with six steel particles, nine steel or marble particles and a longer copper tube packed with 17 steel particles are studied with a frequency sweep. The deformation experienced by a single steel particle in the dimer chain is approximated. Steel ball waveguides and steel rods are fitted with piezoelectric sensors to monitor the force at different points inside the waveguide during testing.

The corresponding frequency responses, including intermodulation products, are compared based on amplitude and preloads. A nonlinear mechanical model describes the motion of the dimer chains in a vacuum. Based on the results of these studies it is anticipated that a nonlinear waveguide will be designed, built, and tested as a possible replacement for the high-fidelity waveguides presently being used in an Inductively Coupled Plasma Torch facility for high heat flux thermal protection system testing. The design is intended to accentuate acoustic emission signals of interest, while suppressing other forms of elastic wave noise.



Number of Pages

110 p.