The primary application associated with this program is to provide easy imaging access to operating jet engine turbines for research and development purposes. Thermal imaging of jet turbine and combustor operation is critically important to engine development and operation. Temperature distribution, hot spot location, and thermal barrier coating performance can be monitored. Imaging will also detect operating geometry such as tip clearance, blade position, and blade spacing. Combustor operation/degradation can also be diagnosed. These are all important engine lifetime indicators. Availability of a very small diameter, easily installed imaging endoscope would enable diagnosis of a wide variety of high temperature, harsh environment NASA test facilities and research projects.
Commercial applications are focused on two distinct markets that can greatly benefit from harsh environment imaging and thermal imaging – viewing/inspection and instrumental process monitoring. The first is the Imaging/Viewing market that focuses on providing the means to effectively thermally and visually monitor inside the boundaries of thermal, chemical, vacuum and pressure systems. Vision is a global, but critically important monitoring process useful for general and specific understanding of visible processes. Optical processing is typically focused on a specific optically detectable parameter, such as temperature, spectroscopic information, or active optical probing, and is used for more direct process control. Optical processing is widely used for automated processes; there is already an established market that can be accessed with superior technology such as that proposed.