PROBLEMS OF DIAGNOSTICS
The main result of any research is the acquisition, processing and analysis of measurement results. Precise measurements are the main engine for the development of new technologies. Any experiment without measurements does not make any sense. The more accurate the measurement, the better the quality of the experiments. Therefore, the measurement methods are constantly being improved. But the process of such improvements is not infinite. There comes a time when the old methods of measurement reach the maximum limit of their capabilities, and their further improvement does not bring tangible results. In this case, there are two ways to solve the problem: It is necessary either to complicate research programs, or to increase the accuracy of measurements. Using the old methods, you can make hundreds of experiments, manually collecting and processing information in each of them. But, if you use computer technology and more modern methods of processing results, you can do just one experiment, having received all the necessary data at once. If in the time of Newton, in scientific experiments, as a rule, two or three parameters were measured, modern measuring equipment in automatic mode is capable of recording many thousands of different characteristics distributed in space and time. Reducing the number of necessary experiments, and increasing the speed of obtaining the full volume of necessary data is of great strategic importance. The sooner a complete test cycle is completed, the sooner a new machine or new technology will appear. Accelerating the development, you can get ahead of competitors, and get tangible economic benefits. In addition, ahead of competitors, you can take the leading positions in the world, while receiving, even, certain political advantages.
Further development of rail transport can be carried out in two ways: First, by building new routes. Secondly, the increase in the load and capacity of existing lines. Meanwhile, it is known that it is necessary not only to increase the speed of trains, but also to ensure a sufficiently high level of safety of their movement. One of the most important safety factors is the technical condition of the tracks. It is no secret that the existing means of nondestructive testing in many cases are not effective, because they are not able to prevent accidents that do not occur due to the classical wear of rails, but due to, for example, structural changes due to cyclic operational loads. Under the influence of these loads, the metal softens and becomes brittle. The disintegration occurs imperceptibly, without the appearance of cracks and other defects that could be detected by conventional means of nondestructive testing. This leads to the fact that a fragile rail can suddenly burst under the weight of any passing train. Such kinks occur very unexpectedly, since there is no monitoring equipment, through which it would be possible to know in advance about the danger and prevent an emergency situation. The photo below shows the most common means of technical control of tracks, which are currently used in Russian Railways.
Obviously, monitoring with a hammer, a measuring ruler and an ultrasonic trolley does not allow obtaining information about the processes of fatigue change in the microstructure of steel, which are the main cause of sudden fractures of rails. Studies of the structure of steels and alloys are usually carried out in materials science laboratories equipped with expensive and cumbersome equipment that is suitable for scientific experiments, but can not be used in the field, for example, to study the physical properties of steel rails. In addition, existing laboratory measurements are very laborious and do not always give accurate results. For example, to study the microstructure of materials under a microscope, you must first cut out a sample of a certain shape, then grind it thoroughly for a long time, then etch in 4% solution of nitric acid (to reveal the microstructure image), and then study this section under a microscope. Large laboratories use large electron microscopes (shown in the photo below). In this case, measurements of the grains of a crystalline microstructure are carried out manually on a linear scale, which gives a large error, since Real grains have an arbitrary shape and different sizes. On the basis of the foregoing it follows that sudden fractures of the rail represent a significant danger, which can be reduced if periodically measured physical properties of steel (including its fragility). But, at the moment there are no mobile measuring devices that can do this work. Therefore, our company works in this direction.