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Dielectric properties, and therefore radar transmission abilities, of radomes degrade with weathering, but the mechanisms causing degradation are not well understood. TRI Austin is using its over three decades of experience in accelerated life testing; failure analysis; and composites to develop a thorough understanding of how radome materials degrade with age and usage.

TRI Austin’s polymers group recommends using substitute materials in future radomes to reduce dielectric property degradation. Our Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) group has developed a NDE processes for assessing dielectric property degradation. We have artificially aged cyanate ester resins with astroquartz reinforcement samples through various levels of exposure to aggressive environments and conducted microwave NDI of the panels to assess dielectric property degradation versus aging. Although, microscopy and spectroscopy indicate that aging degradation is primarily mechanical, the microwave NDI correlates well to the dielectric changes caused by radome aging. More realistic accelerated aging in more realistic samples confirm the degradation mechanisms seen in the originally artificially aged Radome materials. Our microwave NDI processes can measure radar performance as well as dielectric property changes caused by aging. In addition, we have several materials replacement options for decreasing those degradation mechanisms.

TRI Austin’s NDE division has optimized, through modeling and analysis, our existing non-ionizng, low power imaging technology for armor. The microwave/millimeter wave NDI system behaves like a video camera – but creates 3D images of the interior of multi-layer dielectric materials. Our technology can image flat and curved vehicle and body armor samples up to 2” thickness and has the ability to inspect areas of 2 square feet in less than 5 minutes. We detect debonds, inclusions, and cracks in composites, Kevlar, rubber, and ceramics – and inspect the interfaces between layers. We have determined specific microwave imaging system design specifications for a ruggedized, real-time, high-resolution, 3D and man-portable microwave camera, for rapid, on-site inspection of body and vehicle armors for unintended and ballistic damages. Our imaging system is rugged, reliable and easy to use in highly-demanding and stressful environments. Our battery operated system can provide scalability from individual body armor up to large vehicle armor systems.

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