Air-Coupled Ultrasound Time Reversal (ACU-TR) For Subwavelength Nondestructive Imaging

IEEE Trans Ultrason Ferroelectr Freq Control. 2020 Mar;67(3):651-663. doi: 10.1109/TUFFC.2019.2951312. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


Air-coupled ultrasound (ACU) is increasingly used for nondestructive testing (NDT). With ACU, no contact or coupling agent (e.g., water and ultrasound gel) is needed between transducers and test sample, which provides high measurement reproducibility. However, for testing in production, a minimum separation is often necessary between the sample and the transducers to avoid contamination or transducer damage. Due to wave diffraction, the collimation of the ultrasound beam decreases for larger propagation distances, and ACU images become blurred and show lower defect lateral resolution with increasing sample-transducer separation. This is especially critical to thick composites, where large-size planar sources are used to bridge the large ACU transmission loss with good collimation. In this work, ACU reradiation in unbounded media is extended to NDT of multilayered composites. The extended method is named ACU time reversal (ACU-TR) and significantly improves the defect resolution of ACU imaging. With ACU-TR, the complete pressure distribution radiated by large ACU source is measured with point receivers (RXs) in one plane arbitrarily separated from the sample. By applying acoustic holography physics, it is then possible to quantitatively reconstruct the pressure field directly at arbitrary sample defect planes, which compensates for undesired diffraction phenomena and improves minimum detectable defect size, thereby achieving subwavelength lateral resolution. We tested the method on complex wood-based composite samples based on the ACU far-field measurements at a separation of 160 mm between the sample and the RX transducer. With the proposed method, it is possible to detect surface defects as well as inner defects within composite boards. In the future, by using point RX arrays instead of a scanned microphone, both data acquisition and evaluation can be potentially implemented in real time.