Hybrid Carbon Fiber/ZnO Nanowires Polymeric Composite for Stuctural and Energy Harvesting Applications
Despite the many attractive features of carbon fiber reinforced polymers (FRPs) composites, they are prone to failure due to delamination. The ability to tailor the fiber/matrix interface FRPs is crucial to the development of composite materials with enhanced structural performance. In this dissertation, ZnO nanowires (NWs) were grown on the surface of carbon fibers utilizing low temperature hydrothermal synthesis technique prior to the hybrid composite fabrication. The scanning electron microscopy revealed that the ZnO nanowires were grown uniformly on the surface of the carbon fabric. The surface grown ZnO NWs functionally-graded the composite material properties and ensured effective load transfer across the interface. To assess the influence of the ZnO NWs growth, reference samples were also prepared by exposing the carbon fabric to the hydrothermal conditions. The damping properties of the hybrid ZnO NWs-CFRP composite were examined using the dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) technique. The results showed enhanced energy dissipation within the hybrid composite. Quasi-static tensile testing revealed that the in-plane and out-of-plane strengths and moduli of the hybrid FRP composite were also boosted.
The interlaminar shear strength (ILSS) measurements suggested the improvement in the mechanical properties of the composite to the enhanced adhesion between the ZnO nanowires and the other constituents (carbon fiber and epoxy). It was necessary thus, to utilize the molecular dynamics simulations (MD) to investigate the adhesion within the CFRP structure upon growing the ZnO nanowires on the surface of the carbon fibers. Molecular models of the carbon fibers, the epoxy matrix and the ZnO nanowires were built. The resulting molecular structures were minimized and placed within a simulation box with periodic boundary conditions. The MD simulations were performed using the force field COMPASS to account for the empirical energy interactions between the different toms in the simulation box. Proper statistical thermodynamics were employed to relate the dynamics of the molecular model to the macroscale thermodynamic states (pressure, temperature and volume). Per the computed potential energies of the different components of the composite, it was found that the polar surfaces in the ZnO structures facilitates good adhesion properties in the graphite-epoxy composite.
Besides the attractive mechanical properties of the ZnO nanowires, their piezoelectric and semiconductor properties were sought to design an energy harvesting device. To ensure sufficient charges collection from the mechanically stressed individual ZnO nanowires, a copper layer was sputtered on top of the ZnO nanowires which introduced also a Schottky effect. The mechanical excitation was provided by exposing the device to different vibration environment. The output voltage and currents were measured at the conditions (in terms of frequency and resistive load). It was demonstrated that the electrical output could be enhanced by stacking up similar devices in series or in parallel.
Finally, in an attempt to exploit the reversibility of the electromechanical coupling of the energy harvesting device, the constitutive properties of the hybrid ZnO nanowires-CFRP composite were estimated using the Mori-Tanaka approach. This approach was validated by a finite element model (FEM). The FEM simulations were performed on a representative volume element (RVE) to reduce the computational time. The results demonstrated that the mechanical properties of the hybrid ZnO NWs-CFRP composite were better than those for the baseline CFRP composite with identical carbon fiber volume fraction (but with no ZnO NWs) which confirmed the experimental findings. Furthermore, the electro-elastic properties of the hybrid composite were determined by applying proper boundary conditions to the FE RVE.
The work outlined in this dissertation will enable significant advancement in the next generation of hybrid composites with improved structural and energy harvesting multifunctionalties.