The excellent mechanical properties of fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) composites gives them considerable advantages for use in renewable energy (wind, wave and tidal), oil and gas, and transport applications. The low weight, strength, fatigue and corrosion resistance mean that FRP composites have the potential to reduce fossil fuel reliance, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. However, FRP composites can contain a diverse range of defects and damage mechanisms that can reduce the strength, stiffness and life of a structure. These can be difficult to detect, but reliable non-destructive evaluation (NDE) would aid characterisation of FRP material quality and encourage their full exploitation.
Defects can be detected and sized using a range of NDE techniques, which has been done quite widely for high performance composites in the aerospace industry. However there is less evidence of the suitability, applicability and limits of detection for NDE for FRP products in energy applications, e.g. wind and marine turbine blades, nacelles, and oil and gas flexible risers, where different materials and varying thicknesses are used. This project looked at several NDE techniques to determine the relative applicability and suitability for defect detection in FRP, in a range of energy applications, as well as the development of operational procedures for each technique, so that users can have confidence in component performance and working life of FRP composites.