The research objective of this Grant Opportunity for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) award is to enable a high spatial resolution sensing system to accurately measure stress distributions within polymer materials for structural integrity monitoring in adhesives and coatings. This will be achieved through a measurement technique using photo-luminescent nanoparticles of alumina as stress sensors in a matrix material for the detection of changes in stress, real-time and non-destructively. Bulk and nanoscale studies of alumina-epoxy composites will be performed under load testing and nano-manipulation methods respectively. The studies will focus on establishing material-sensor configuration and uncovering stress-optic or piezospectroscopic relationships that will provide the basis for sensitive, high spatial resolution optical stress monitoring. This will be validated with the governing theory on load transfer between alumina nanoparticles in a matrix material.
The outcome of the novel studies, if successful, will lead to sensor-based discovery of failure mechanisms in adhesives and strengthening mechanisms with nanoparticle reinforcement for advanced adhesives and coatings. The significance of the research is in the potential for enabling a new class of advanced sensing systems to be introduced as practical non-destructive methods for structural adhesives integrity testing. Through the advancement of next-generation high spatial resolution sensing materials, the research has the potential to contribute to the understanding and advancement of self-diagnostic sensing materials with optimized strength and fracture toughness. Research goals will be integrated with efforts aimed at fundamental studies on a novel optical stress sensing material system to be applied in an industrial laboratory setting. This will provide an enhanced educational and research environment to inspire a "vision to reality" approach in leading basic research towards the applied setting.