The project proposes to investigate and develop carbon nanotube/polymer-impregnated fabric for structural health monitoring (SHM). The idea is to attach the fabric to a structural member in buildings and bridges to monitor deformations and cracks in the member continuously and trigger an alarm when they exceed a certain critical level. Because the fabric is continuous, the deformations and cracks can be measured on all the surfaces where the fabric is applied. This development, if successful, can be a significant advancement toward sustainable buildings and structures. A particular effort is aimed at recruiting talented students from underrepresented groups and Women in Engineering (WIE) programs. There is a close university/industry interaction which will facilitate rapid technology transfer between basic science and technological applications.
The research focuses on the integration of carbon nanotube-based sensing technology into structural health monitoring (SHM) systems for civil structures and buildings. Carbon nanotube sensing layers consist of a conductive network structure that enables nerve-like distributed sensing capabilities. The sensing concept is based on utilizing electrically conductive carbon nanotube networks integrated into the polymer matrix of a textile composite. Carbon nanotube-based sensors have a number of unique characteristics as compared to traditional SHM sensors, such as strain gages, accelerometers, or displacement sensors, and are extremely well suited for distributed sensing. Preliminary work by has shown that the novel sensor is (1) extremely sensitive to strain and micro-damage, (2) applicable to a wide range of geometries, and (3) robust and functional well into the non-linear structural behavior. Research in sensor processing, characterization and modeling, sensor response and data analysis, and model testing of components as well as complete structures will be performed. The proposed research is a multidisciplinary collaboration and builds upon the strengths of the two investigators in structural health monitoring and structural mechanics and in nanostructured composites and sensors.