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Precision Acoustics joins forces to create ultrasonic sensors for nuclear and high radiation environments

Published: 16 November 2020 - Rachael Morling

Precision Acoustics has recently completed a project, the Development Of Radiation Resilient Ultrasonic Sensors project (ReDRESS), with a consortium of industry and academic partners to develop a suite of ultrasonic measuring devices for high radiation environments.

The project was enabled by a research grant from Innovate-UK and was a cross-company collaboration, involving Precision Acoustics, Ionix Advanced Technologies Ltd, TWI Ltd and the University of Sheffield. It was established to create a suite of products that offered an alternative to commercially available ultrasonic sensors, which have limitations in terms of temperature and radiation exposure. High radiation, in particular, can cause failure of such sensors. Their replacement is time consuming, expensive and results in an interruption of the nuclear reactors’ productivity. 
The main project brief was to design heat and radiation resilient ultrasonic sensors which would push the maximum operating window (in terms of temperature and radiation) of piezopolymer and piezoceramic ultrasound transducers for defined periods of time. This would be to allow inspections close to the core of nuclear reactors, which are extremely hot (> 350°C) and where there are high radiation levels.
The teams worked together for 21 months. Each partner brought their own areas of expertise, and Precision Acoustics were focused on the design and manufacture of the piezopolymer transducers which needed to be easy to assemble, have a long useful life, be sufficiently robust to withstand the harsh environments and be flexible enough in its design for a variety of uses in many different scenarios.
The entire ReDRESS cross-company collaboration was project managed by Precision Acoustics’ Research Scientist, Tom Kelley, who also acted as chief liaison with the individual companies and Innovate-UK. He was involved in all  technical discussions and ensured harmony between technical personnel and the managerial personnel. Tom also had to keep the four teams on track and make sure the 40 individual tasks were completed and delivered within the grant budget and 21-month timeframe.
On successful completion of the ReDRESS project, an Innovate-UK monitoring officer said, “The project management has been very good throughout the project and deserves the accolade of ‘excellent’ as the project concludes… This project has been very successful and is likely to lead to substantial financial growth for one of the partners.”

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