Aligning carbon nanofibres in glass-fibre/epoxy composites to improve interlaminar toughness and crack-detection capability

Shuying Wu, Raj B. Ladani, Anil R. Ravindran, Jin Zhang, Adrian P. Mouritz, Anthony J. Kinloch, Chun H. Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

An electric field is used to align carbon nanofibres (CNFs) in the matrix of a glass-fibre reinforced-polymer (GFRP) composite to simultaneously improve the (a) delamination toughness, (b) electrical conductivity, and (c) damage-sensing capability. The CNFs are added to the epoxy resin prior to the manufacture of the GFRP composites. To align the CNFs, an alternating current (AC) electric field of 30 V/mm at 10 kHz is applied across the GFRP sheet throughout the matrix-curing process. The electromechanical force induced by the electric field, applied in the through-thickness direction of the composite sheet, rotates and aligns the CNFs in the direction of the applied electric field prior to the gelation of the epoxy matrix. After curing, the resultant aligned, ‘chain-like’, microstructure of the CNFs in the epoxy matrix significantly enhances both the interlaminar fracture toughness and the through-thickness electrical conductivity of the GFRP composite. Specifically, the addition of 0.7 vol% of randomly-orientated CNFs in the GFRP composite yielded an ∼50% and 25% increase in the values of the mode I fracture toughness pertinent to the initiation, GIci, and steady-state growth, GIcss, of delamination crack, respectively, compared to the control GFRP composite. The alignment of the CNFs, in the transverse direction to the direction of the crack growth, increases the mode I toughness values of GIci and GIcss by ∼100% and ∼80%, respectively, compared to the control GFRP composite. These significant increases are attributable to multiple toughening mechanisms, including debonding of the CNFs from the matrix, void growth of the epoxy matrix, pull-out and rupture of the CNFs. Further, the electric-field induced alignment of the CNFs, in the through-thickness direction, increases the out-of-plane electrical conductivity of the GFRP by about twenty-six times, compared to the GFRP composite containing randomly-orientated CNFs. Of particular interest, the damage-sensing capacity is enhanced for the GFRP composite with aligned CNFs in the epoxy matrix, which stems from the greatly increased out-of-plane electrical conductivity, as confirmed by a modelling study. Therefore, this present work has identified a new strategy to develop GFRP composites with greatly improved delamination toughness, electrical conductivity, and higher crack-detection sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalComposites Science and Technology
Volume152
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Functional composites
  • Delamination
  • Electrical properties
  • Carbon nanofibres

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Aligning carbon nanofibres in glass-fibre/epoxy composites to improve interlaminar toughness and crack-detection capability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this