Multifunctional Nanocomposites and Particulate Composites with Nanocomposite Binders for Deformation and Damage Sensing
Sengezer, Engin Cem
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At present, structural health monitoring efforts focus primarily on the sensors and sensing systems for detecting instances and locations of damage through techniques such as X-ray, micro CT, acoustic emission, infrared thermography, lamb wave etc., which only detect cracks at relatively large length scales and rely heavily on sensors and sensing systems which are external to the material system. As an alternative to conventional commercially available SHM techniques, the current work explores processing-structure-property relationships starting from carbon nanotube (CNT) based nanocomposites to particulate composites with nanocomposite binder/matrix materials, i.e. hybrid particulate composites to investigate deformation and damage sensing capabilities of inherently sensing materials and structures through their piezoresistive (coupled electro-mechanical) response. Initial efforts focused on controlling the dispersion of CNTs and orientation of CNT filaments within nanocomposites under dielectrophoresis to guide design and fabrication process of nanocomposites by tuning CNT concentration, applied AC electric field intensity, frequency and exposure time. It is observed that a combination of exposure time to AC electric field and the AC field frequency are the key drivers of filament width and spacing and that the network for filament formation is much more efficient for pristine CNTs than for acid treated functionalized CNTs. With the knowledge obtained from controlling the morphological features, AC field-induced long range alignment of CNTs within bulk nanocomposites was scaled up to form structural test coupons. The morphology, electrical and mechanical properties of the coupons were investigated. The anisotropic piezoresistive response both for parallel and transverse to CNT alignment direction within bulk composite coupons under various loading conditions was obtained. It is observed that control of the CNT network allows for the establishment of percolation paths and piezoresistive response well below the nominal percolation threshold observed for random, so called well-dispersed CNT network distributions. The potential for use of such bulk nanocomposites in SHM applications to detect strain and microdamage accumulation is further demonstrated, underscoring the importance of microscale CNT distribution/orientation and network formation/disruption in governing the piezoresistive sensitivities. Finally, what may be the first experimental study in the literature is conducted for real-time embedded microscale strain and damage sensing in energetic materials by distributing the CNT sensing network throughout the binder phase of inert and mock energetic composites through piezoresistive response for SHM in energetic materials. The incorporation of CNTs into inert and mock energetic composites revealed promising self-diagnostic functionalities for in situ real-time SHM applications under quasi-static and low velocity impact loading for solid rocket propellants, detonators and munitions to reduce the stochastic nature of safety characterization and help in designing insult tolerant energetic materials.
- Doctoral Dissertations