Non-destructive evaluation of specialty coating degradation using terahertz time-domain spectroscopy

Carley R. Nicoletti, Laura Cramer, Alan Fletcher, David Zimdars, Zafar Iqbal, John F. Federici

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


The Terahertz Time Domain Reflection Spectroscopy (THz-TDS) method of paint layer diagnostics is a non-contact electromagnetic technique analogous to pulsed-ultrasound with the added capability of spectroscopic characterization. The THz-TDS sensor emits a near-single cycle electromagnetic pulse with a bandwidth from 0.1 to 3 THz. This wide bandwidth pulse is focused on the coating, and echo pulses are generated from each interface (air-coating, layer-layer, coating-substrate). In this paper, the THz-TDS method is applied to specialty aircraft coatings. The THz-TDS method is able to penetrate the whole coating stack and sample the properties of each layer. Because the reflected pulses from individual layers typically overlap in time, the complex permittivity function and thickness of each layer is determined by a best fit of the measured reflection (either in time or frequency domain) to a layered model of the paint. The THz-TDS method is applied to specialty coatings prior to and during accelerated aging on a series of test coupons. The coupons are also examined during aging using ATR (attenuated total reflectance)-FTIR spectroscopy, Raman scattering spectroscopy, and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to ascertain, quantify, and understand the breakdown mechanisms of the coatings. In addition, the same samples are characterized using THz-TDS techniques to determine if the THz-TDS method can be utilized as a non-destructive evaluation technique to sense degradation of the coatings. Our results suggest that the degradation mechanism begins in the top coat layer. In this layer, 254 nm UV illumination in combination with the presence of moisture works partially with oxides as catalysts to decompose the polymer matrix thereby creating porosity in the top coat layer. Since the catalytic effect is partial, loss of the oxides by chemical reaction can also occur. As the topcoat layer becomes more porous, it allows water vapor to permeate the topcoat layer and interact with the rain erosion layer via carbonization of the polymer matrix in the rain erosion layer. The presence of the salt accelerates the pitting degradation. The goal of this paper is to determine if THz-TDS can be used to sense degradation of the coating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDisruptive Technologies in Sensors and Sensor Systems
EditorsRussell D. Hall, Misty Blowers, Jonathan Williams
ISBN (Electronic)9781510609136
StatePublished - 2017
EventDisruptive Technologies in Sensors and Sensor Systems 2017 - Anaheim, United States
Duration: Apr 11 2017Apr 12 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherDisruptive Technologies in Sensors and Sensor Systems 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Degradation
  • Terahertz
  • Time-domain Spectroscopy


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