College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

NASA Space Act Agreement expands NDE capabilities in high-frequency microwave/millimeter wave testing

A researcher stands over an instrument while she calibrates it
A researcher stands over an instrument while she calibrates it
Anna Case, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, calibrates a microwave/millimeter wave performance network analyzer that expands the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation’s capabilities through a new NASA Space Act Agreement.

Iowa State University’s microwave and millimeter wave nondestructive evaluation laboratory, directed by Reza Zoughi at the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE), will expand its capabilities through a new partnership with NASA.

Through a Space Act Agreement (SAA), NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) will loan a microwave/millimeter wave performance network analyzer that makes possible measurements up to 325 GHz, significantly improving this laboratory’s range of high-frequency testing capabilities.

“The increase in capabilities makes our laboratory and CNDE unique and opens the doors for us to address much broader NDE questions as our capabilities improve in terms of frequency,” said Zoughi, director of the laboratory, director of the CNDE, and Kirby Gray (Battelle) Chair in Engineering. “From detecting small-scale defects in materials to testing next-generation, high-frequency sensors, CNDE will now be well positioned for many new types of NDE research challenges and contributions.”

Building on strong collaboration

The most recent partnership continues a long collaboration between NASA and Zoughi, who is one of the nation’s foremost experts in microwave and millimeter wave NDE techniques.

Zoughi’s research team helped NASA in establishing a microwave laboratory at MSFC when the loaned equipment was initially installed there, and he has continued to have a strong technical collaboration with NASA NDE researchers over the years.

“The Space Act Agreement is another example of the collaborative relationship we’ve built with Iowa State’s CNDE,” said Frank Hepburn, NDE Team at NASA MSFC. “Difficult, emerging challenges in NDE will require researchers from all areas to combine our expertise in collaborations like these.”

Hands-on training for tomorrow’s NDE workforce

Iowa State University students studying NDE already learn from international leaders in the field, and now they will have access to hands-on training in high-frequency microwave/millimeter wave NDE techniques.

“NDE faculty often use our specialized CNDE instruments and equipment in their teaching, and Iowa State students will get training in additional techniques, learning from NDE researchers who have deep knowledge of microwave/millimeter wave testing,” said Zoughi. “The NASA collaboration helps us further enhance our training of NDE practitioners Iowa State sends into every major technical industry.”

Three researchers post with a nondestructive evaluation instrument
Matthew Dvorsky (right), Anna Case (left) and Aaron McCarville (sitting) are Iowa State University graduate and undergraduate students who will use the microwave/millimeter wave performance network analyzer (PNA) in Reza Zoughi’s research group.

About CNDE

The Center for Nondestructive Evaluation is uniquely positioned as the preeminent national leader in fundamental and applied NDE research, technology, and educational innovations and engineering know-how serving the broader NDE community. CNDE was formed in the mid-1980s as a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. Nondestructive evaluation is the science, engineering and application of evaluating a structure or a system without adversely influencing its future functionality.