Hopkins Center Solves Plethora of Problems By Ken Keatley Bob Green is a problem solver. That is why, on an otherwise meticulous desk in his Maryland Hall office on the Homewood campus, there are two bags filled with problems waiting for solutions. One, containing a black piece of composite, is from an aircraft manufacturer seeking insights on why a bond is not holding properly. The other, containing two thin, glass vials, is from a research lab that needs a precise measurement of the circumference of the vials' inner walls. "That's the best part of this job," said Dr. Green, director of the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation. "If somebody has a problem and you can solve it, it's real exciting." There have been plenty of exciting moments since Dr. Green founded the center--part of the School of Engineering-- in 1984. One of two academic research centers in the United States devoted to the development and use of nondestructive testing techniques, CNDE has provided solutions to a plethora of problems encountered by scientists in industry and government. The center has also been a breeding ground for academic research and graduate student development. "I learn things here that I otherwise wouldn't encounter," said Logan Hargrove, of the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Va., which has funded a number of CNDE projects. "There's a lot of opportunity to feed into a pool of ideas." Since its founding, CNDE--which is funded by private and government sponsorships--has developed and employed techniques that are useful in controlling and improving product quality in manufacturing processes, and that assure the reliability of materials, parts and products. It has also served as an "access port" for Hopkins researchers. "The center has provided critically needed technical expertise to numerous industries and government agencies," said Don Giddens, School of Engineering dean. "It is educating a new generation of materials engineers and scientists through the involvement of highly qualified graduate students in their research projects." About 35 graduate students and more than 40 faculty members are currently working on some 60 projects. Applications of their work range from using a new imaging technique to study the corrosion of ancient pottery fragments, to the use of optical imaging to evaluate hip replacement implants for defects. Lasers, X-rays, ultrasound and holograms are among the tools that help CNDE scientists test just about anything-- heart valves, jet engines, aircraft lap joints, refinery walls and sealed food containers--for invisible flaws, leaks and weaknesses. During a typical year, CNDE is sponsored by about 20 corporations or government agencies, who pay annual fees of $25,000. In return for the funding, which supports graduate student and research equipment expenses, the sponsors get timely access to the center's work and graduates. Current sponsors include the Department of Energy, Becton Dickinson, Exxon and the Federal Aviation Administration. Since its founding, the center's driving force has been Green, who must be part scientist, part salesman, part administrator and part fundraiser to keep the center functioning. A renowned researcher in Materials Science and Engineering and a faculty member and frequent department chair since arriving at Hopkins in 1960, Green finds his administrative duties as CNDE director keep him out of the laboratory more than he likes. But he still oversees eight graduate students, and is a tireless traveler. Later this month, he will speak on nondestructive testing and evaluation at a NATO workshop in Poland. "I've always had a lot of interests, or I get bored," Dr. Green said. "I guess that's why I've stayed in the job this long. There's always something new going on around here."
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