2019-08-02T19:18:49Z (GMT) by Akshay Jacob Thomas

Fiber reinforced polymer composites are widely used in manufacturing advanced light weight structures for the aerospace, automotive, and energy sectors owing to their superior stiffness and strength. With the increasing use of composites, there is an increasing need to monitor the health of these structures during their lifetime. Currently, health monitoring in filament wound composites is facilitated by embedding piezoelectrics and optical fibers in the composite during the manufacturing process. However, the incorporation of these sensing elements introduces sites of stress concentration which could lead to progressive damage accumulation. In addition to introducing weak spots in the structure, they also make the manufacturing procedure difficult.

Alternatively, nanofiller modification of the matrix imparts conductivity which can be leveraged for real time health monitoring with fewer changes to the manufacturing method. Well dispersed nanofillers act as an integrated sensing network. Damage or strain severs the well-connected nanofiller network thereby causing a local change in conductivity. The self-sensing capabilities of these modified composites can be combined with low cost, minimally invasive imaging modalities such as electrical impedance tomography (EIT) for damage detection. To date, however, EIT has exclusively been used for damage detection in planar coupons. These simple plate-like structures are not representative of real-world complex geometries. This thesis advances the state of the art in conductivity-based structural health monitoring (SHM) and nondestructive evaluation (NDE) by addressing this limitation of EIT. The current study will look into damage detection of a non-planar multiply connected domain – a filament-wound glass fiber/epoxy tube modified by carbon black (CB) filler. The results show that EIT is able to detect through holes as small as 7.94 mm in a tube with length-to-diameter ratio of 132.4 mm-to-66.2 mm (aspect ratio of 2:1). Further, the sensitivity of EIT to damage improved with decreasing tube aspect ratio. EIT was also successful in detecting sub-surface damage induced by low velocity impacts. These results indicate that EIT has much greater potential for composite SHM and NDE than prevailing work limited to planar geometries suggest.