Polyethylene (PE) pipe, particularly high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, has been successfully utilized to transport cooling water for both non-safety-related applications and safety-related applications in nuclear power plant (NPP). However, concerns of a lack of non-destructive examination (NDE) procedures and qualifications specialized for HDPE pipe impede its broader application. Traditional approximation without considering effects of acoustic dispersion could work for PE pipe with a small inspection depth. But for PE pipe of large size used in nuclear power plant, effects of acoustic attenuation and dispersion accumulate with depth, and have influence on waveforms of target pules, which brings great challenges to the energy concentration when performing ultrasonic phased-array inspection for PE pipe in NPP. In this paper, a theoretical method applying Szabo’s causal convolutional propagation operator based on causality theory was presented to obtain wave equations of ultrasound in PE considering both attenuation and dispersion, in which attenuation coefficient and phase velocity were used to separately characterize acoustic attenuation and dispersion. Then, an experimental method using ultrasonic spectroscopy technology was proposed to confirm the proposed model, and a good agreement was obtained. The results indicated that attenuation coefficient of PE had an approximately linear relation with frequency and that phase velocity rose logarithmically with frequency. Finally, effects of attenuation and dispersion on amplitude spectrum and waveform in time domain of the target signal were investigated. Frequency downshift and time delay shift had an influence on image resolution and focus capability, and were believed to be a restriction of current inspection technology. This work also theoretically proved that lower testing frequencies (less than 2.5MHz) could improve the inspection effectiveness of the applied inspecting systems for HDPE pipes in NPP applications.

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