From ships to aircraft, bridges and pipelines; history has seen numerous catastrophic structural failures, such as the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia on re-entry due to sustained wing damage, the explosive decompression of China Airlines Flight 611 from undetected metal fatigue and the Esso Longford refinery explosion caused by a brittle fracture of an oil pump. As well as the injuries and death that such events can cause, such failures result in inconvenience and economic loss. In many cases, the failure of a component or structure in-service is due to the presence of mechanical damage, such as fatigue cracks for metal or delamination for composite materials. There is, therefore, a need to evaluate the strength and integrity of engineering structures.

The Non-destructive testing group aim to develop new and existing techniques in order to better detect mechanical damage in components and structure.

Research projects

  •  Embedded fibre optics  in laminate composites for structural integrity assessment

The aim of this research is to investigate the use of an embedded network of FBG sensor arrays within composite structures to detect the location and severity of structural damage and impact events. Fibre reinforced composite structures are vulnerable to impact damage, which is not easily detectable with conventional, non-destructive testing techniques. The use of fibre optics with FBG sensor arrays provides a potential solution to this problem. These sensors will be embedded within the composite material to provide distributed internal strain information. This strain information will then be used to evaluate the location of impact on, or damage within the composite material.

This project is supported by a Premier’s Research and Industry Fund (PRIF) Catalyst Research Grant ($30,000).

  •   Use of scanning laser Doppler vibrometry for structural integrity assessment

The aim of this research is to develop a damage detection technique based on the fundamental concepts of continuum mechanics. The combination of this technique with the latest advances in scanning laser technology will provide the ability to detect and quantify structural damage, especially in fibre-reinforced composites. This has the potential to achieve significant gains in operational efficiency and cost savings in the maintenance of high-value assets such as large maritime structures, civil infrastructure and aircraft fleets.

This project is supported by the Faculty of Science and Engineering Establishment Grant ($60,000).

  • Development of new surface strain measurement technology

This research involves the development of software for the measurement of surface strain on curved surfaces using

    • 3D laser scanning Doppler vibrometry,
    • 3D Digital Image Correlation


  • Automated fabrication of high performance bespoke composite components

The research group is a partner in an ARC LIEF grant (LE140100082 - $500,000) that established a facility at UNSW with the capacity for automated fabrication of advanced bespoke composite components. This facility has an industrial robot platform, which is able to provide fast, precise and flexible composite material fabrication.

  • Development of a world-class facility for three-dimensional dynamic testing

The group is currently involved in an ARC LIEF grant (LE150100094 - $400,000) to establish a 6-degree-of-freedom mechanical testing facility at Flinders University that is based on a Stewart-Gough platform. Using this facility, we will be able to test composite material specimens with a variety of complex loading scenarios.

Personnel and Collaborators

Dr Stuart Wildy (Group Leader)

Prof. John Arkwright

Peter Cook (Research Associate)

Ben Wells (Research Associate)

Prof. Gangadhara Prusty (UNSW)

AProf Andrei Kotousov (University of Adelaide)

Dr John Codrington (University of Adelaide)

Airspeed Pty Ltd (South Australian Composite Manufacturer)

Wenjin Xing (PhD Candidate)

Further information

If you are interested in pursuing research relating to non-destructive testing, please contact the group leader.  We would also be happy to provide more information about the School's researchprograms,the opportunities for higher degree study and scholarship information.  For more information, please contact the research group leader: 

Dr Stuart Wildy

Phone: 08 8201 2796