Dr Rachael C Tighe

Rachael Tighe

Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Qualifications: MPhys (Hons) Physics; MSc Environmental Technology; PhD University of Southampton

About Rachael

Student Research Opportunities - Applications Welcome

PhD scholarship - starting 2022:3D reconstruction of thermal data for internal defect detection

ME scholarship - starting 2023:Accessing subsurface stresses using thermoelastic stress analysis

Rachael graduated from the University of Lancaster with a Masters of Physics and swapped over to the dark side for her PhD in Engineering from the University of Southampton (Thesis: Development of Infrared Techniques for Practical Defect Identification in Bonded Joints). Rachael worked as a Research Fellow in Faculty of Engineering at the University of Southampton 2014-2016, worked for the UK Ministry of Defence 2016-2018 before emigrating to New Zealand and the University of Waikato in 2018.

Rachael is Chair of the Thermomechanics and Infrared Imaging Technical Division within the Society of Experimental Mechanics and is on the Conference Committee for Manufacturing, Design and Entrepreneurship NZRachael is a member of the Waikato Robotics, Automation and Sensing (WaiRAS), Centre for Advanced Materials and Manufacture (WaiCAMM) and Resilience, Infrastructure and Sustainable Construction (WaiRISC) Research Groups.

Rachael is a current Marsden Fast Start recipient (2021) for work entitled: Thermoelastic stress tomography: using heat to detect, map and quantifying the effect of hidden defects. Throughout her career Rachael has worked on a wide range of sensing and inspection problems from implementation in extreme environments to high volume inspection and data processing. Rachael's main research areas are:

Non-destructive evaluation: adapting existing and developing new techniques and methods to a variety of materials, components and structures. Working on the physical implementation of thermography alongside other techniques focusing signal/data processing developments and data integration.

Structural health monitoring: Development of longer term monitoring approaches including identifying complimentary techniques to obtain more complete information on the health of a structure.

Sensors for environmental measurement: Rachael is working with colleagues in the School of Science to develop systems to aid in environmental measurements and monitoring.

Rachael is continually looking for new collaborations with both academia and industry to work with, looking at advancing existing techniques, finding new applications and tackling current inspection challenges.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised

PhD Researchers

Larissa Kopf - Full field imaging techniques for characterisation of additively manufactured materials, University of Waikato (Chief supervisor; In progress)

Xutao Sun - Natural frequency-based crack detection: the use of the roving spring-mass system, University of Waikato (Co-supervisor; In progress)

Geir Olafsson - Non-destructive examination (NDE) of composite to steel joints for condition monitoring in the marine environment. University of Southampton, UK. (Co-supervisor; 2021)

Matthew Seabright - Occlusion prediction for kiwifruit yield estimation, University of Waikato. (Co-supervisor; 2020)

Masters Researchers

Denis Jouan -  Non-destructive evaluation of additively manufactured materials: developing a coupled acoustic emission and thermoelastic stress analysis approach, University of Waikato in collaboration with Rhys Pullin, University of Cardiff (Chief supervisor; In progress)

Ding Yi Huang - Thermographic inspection to provide quality assurance for reinforced 3D printer filaments, University of Waikato (Chief supervisor; 2020)

Larissa Kopf - Formula SAE Wesmo car suspension dynamics, University of Waikato (Co-supervisor; 2020)

Research Interests

Rachael’s research interests are in the fundamentals of sensing and inspection technologies, particularly non-destructive evaluation of materials, components and structures. Such inspection applications range from online manufacturing quality control to in-service through life inspections. Research to date has largely focused on the use and development of using imaging techniques such as pulse phase thermography (defect detection), thermoelastic stress analysis (stress distributions) and digital image correlation (displacements/strain) to gather such information. Interest lies in coupling such imaging techniques with other sensing systems to reveal complimentary information to build more complete understanding. The overall aim is to build from detecting defects towards assessing the impact of those defects on the component, i.e. there is a defect, now do we care? Current work looks at a variety of traditional and advanced materials, manufacturing and structures.

Stress distributions around a weld under vibration loading, measured using TSA.

Ongoing projects:
  • Thermographic assessment of polymer and metallic additive manufactured materials
  • Inspection and assessment of surface coating health and corrosion using thermography
  • Predictive maintenance informed by infrared thermography
  • Development of an underwater profiling device for remote measurements
Past projects:
  • Non Destructive Evaluation of adhesive bonds in composite aircraft using thermography
  • Online inspection of reinforced 3D printing filament
  • Measuring the colour of water - a self orientating platform for multi-sensor data collection
  • Online seal inspection in multi layer packaging
  • Plastic recycling and reuse - reducing the waste from 3D printing
  • Cars vs. Clams - measuring the impact of beach traffic on Toheroa population

Recent Publications

  • Ólafsson, G., Tighe, R. C., Boyd, S. W., & Dulieu-Barton, J. M. (2022). Lock-in thermography using miniature infra-red cameras and integrated actuators for defect identification in composite materials. Optics & Laser Technology, 147, 107629. doi:10.1016/j.optlastec.2021.107629

  • Tighe, R. C., Hill, J., Vosper, T., Taylor, C., & Tuhiwai, T. (2022). Simultaneous tailoring of pulsed thermography experimental and processing parameters for enhanced defect detection and sizing in adhesive bonds in carbon fibre composites. Engineering Research Express. doi:10.1088/2631-8695/ac4a4b

  • Tighe, R., Kramer, S. L. B., Lin, M. T., Furlong, C., & Hwang, C. H. (2022). Preface. In Conference Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Mechanics Series Vol. 4 (pp. v-vi).

  • Olafsson, G., Tighe, R. C., Boyd, S. W., & Dulieu-Barton, J. M. (2021). Development of an integrated sacrificial sensor for damage detection and monitoring in composite materials and adhesively bonded joints. Structural Health Monitoring. doi:10.1177/1475921721989041 Open Access version:

Find more research publications by Rachael Tighe


Engineering; Materials and Processing; Mechanical; Physics; Remote Sensing

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: EF.2.01
Phone: +64 7 838 4109