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Autonomous stimulus triggered self-healing in smart structural composites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number094027
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages10
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Volume21
Issue number9
DOIs
DatePublished - Sep 2012

Abstract

Inspired by the ability of biological systems to sense and autonomously heal damage, this research has successfully demonstrated the first autonomous, stimulus triggered, self-healing system in a structural composite material. Both the sensing and healing mechanisms are reliant on microvascular channels incorporated within a laminated composite material. For the triggering mechanism, a single air filled vessel was pressurized, sealed and monitored. Upon drop weight impact (10 J), delamination and microcrack connectivity between the pressurized vessel and those open to ambient led to a pressure loss which, with the use of a suitable sensor, triggered a pump to deliver a healing agent to the damage zone. Using this autonomous healing approach, near full recovery of post-impact compression strength was achieved (94% on average). A simplified alternative system with healing agent continuously flowing through the vessels, akin to blood flow, was found to offer 100% recovery of the material's virgin strength. Optical microscopy and ultrasonic C-scanning provided further evidence of large-scale infusion of matrix damage with the healing agent. The successful implementation of this bioinspired technology could substantially enhance the integrity and reliability of aerospace structures, whilst offering benefits through improved performance/weight ratios and extended lifetimes.

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