This article presents a comprehensive experimental study of impact damage detection for carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites using an electromagnetic (EM) sensor with coupled spiral inductors (CSI). Two representative types of damage are detected and evaluated, i.e., barely visible impact damage (BVID) and delamination. A multifrequency inspection is per-formed, where the resultant images indicate the potential of the CSI sensor in the characterization of damage extent. The accuracy and efficiency of the CSI sensor are compared with the open-ended waveguide imaging, near-field microwave microscopy, microwave time-domain reflectometry, the complementary split-ring resonator, and ultrasonic scanning. Applications and limitations of these nondestructive testing (NDT) methods for identifying impact damage are discussed. There is a free edge effect on the electromagnetic signal, which is illustrated for the first time with the proposed EM technique. Detection of the air gap produced by inserting a thin piece into a machined subsurface groove is carried out. It is found that the developed CSI sensor is able to accurately resolve the location and extent of the air gap. The experimental results demonstrate that the sensor could offer an alternative relatively low cost method that can be fully automated for structural monitoring of aircraft and other composite structures.
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