Acoustic Emission (AE) monitoring can be used to detect and locate structural damage such as growing fatigue cracks. The accuracy of damage location and consequently the inference of its significance for damage assessment is dependent on the wave propagation properties in terms of wave velocity, dispersion, attenuation and wave mode conversion. These behaviors are understood and accounted for in simplistic structures; however, actual structures are geometrically complex, with components comprising of different materials. One of the key challenges in such scenarios is the ability to positively identify wave modes and correctly associate their properties for damage location analysis. In this study, a novel method for wave mode identification is presented based on phase and instantaneous frequency analysis. Finite Element (FE) simulations and experiments on a representative aircraft wing structure were conducted to evaluate the performance of the technique. The results show how a phase analysis obtained from a Hilbert Transform of the wave signal in combination with variations of the instantaneous frequency of the wave signal, can be used to determine the arrival and therefore identification of the different wave modes on a complex structure. The methodology outlined in this paper was proven on an Automatic Sensor Test wave signal, Pencil Lead Breaks and Hanning windows and it was shown that the percentage difference is between 3% and 15% for the A0
wave speed respectively.
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