The wonder of NDT

So, are you ready to make those decisions on the future of NDT? Well, hold those ideas! I have decided to give you a month’s grace before we get back into the hard stuff. No, it is not because I am still in the festive spirit and can’t stop spreading goodwill. Although spreading could be connected to it as you will see. No, it is because I want to talk to you about gardening! Yes, you read it correctly, gardening in January, when the last thing on most people’s minds is to get out in the garden. It will not wait until spring: I need to tell you now.

The idyllic image of gardening is someone walking around a perfect lawn, doing a little snipping with secateurs here and plucking a little weed out of the neatly-arranged flower beds there. Unfortunately, this is at odds to my practical experience, which is one of labouring: turning over sods of grass in the borders until your hands are blistered; shifting flagstones; cutting hedges with shears so the blisters come back. So, by any stretch of the imagination, I am not a gardener. I do, however, like the colour that flowers bring to the local environment and, as I slow down with age, I have started to enjoy the many shades of green, orange and red that trees and bushes contribute. And to show how much I have slowed, I even take pleasure in the many textures of the various bushes and shrubs I see as I walk/jog around.

Some of you, who can call yourselves gardeners, may already know what I am about to tell you, but to me it was a complete surprise and I was so amazed by it that I just had to pass it on. I was reading a book, not a gardening book but one that did cover the natural environment, and the author introduced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or AMF to those in the know. I had never heard of them before but, in my defence, I didn’t study biology beyond O-level. Oh, sorry, Year 11.

AMF are microscopic fungi that colonise a plant’s roots, penetrating into the cells and forming highly-branched tree-like structures or arbuscules. AMF provide a direct physical link between the soil and plant roots. The relationship is a mutual one, with the fungi receiving food from the plant and in return they basically do everything for the plant. They acquire and deliver phosphate, micronutrients and water to their hosts, enhancing plant growth. They provide protection against various pathogens and predators. What is more, AMF can improve soil texture by binding soil particles into stable aggregates that resist wind and water erosion. Now, this is not just a rare occurrence: various figures are quoted but one paper states that AMF occur in about 80% of plant species. And I thought that plants were just plants and sorted themselves out.

Helped by the way the author presented the information, I found this to be, literally, awesome! Wow!

The after-effects of this revelation led me to think about NDT! No, I’m not going to draw an analogy between NDT operators and fungi. It would take a braver man than I to do that. I am also bright enough to realise that when you are stuck in a hot, dirty, restricted space performing contortions, the last thing that comes to mind is the wonder of NDT. But, in its own way, NDT is just as impressive as AMF. We listen to the sounds that inanimate objects make with ultrasonics and acoustic emission; we make the invisible visible using special chemical formulations in the application of dye penetrant; we see through solids with X-ray and gamma radiation; we sense magnetic and electrical properties with MPI, eddy currents, ACPD and ACFM; we turn heat, or lack of it, into colours with thermography. We design and build the tools to enable us to collect all of this data and then, most importantly, we make sense of it. And, of course, pass it on to the plant! That is also awesome. Wow.

So, we can go into 2015 with a spring in our steps. We do need to tell people what a wonderful service we provide and we do need to think of how best to improve and take advantage of future opportunities. Just always remember: what we do is awesome and the future is bright.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of Amec Foster Wheeler or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Comments by members

This forum post has no comments, be the first to leave a comment.

Submit your comment

You need to log in to submit a Comment. Please click here to log in or register.

<< Back