The main objectives and goals of this research project are:

  1. to establish the manufacturing and application of carbon nanotube sensor networks as structural and non-structural sensing layers for application on concrete and steel surfaces for ex-situ sensing;
  2. to examine the feasibility of carbon nanotube sensor networks to form an integrated self-sensing reinforcement in-situ within concrete beams and establish the sensing approach;
  3. to study experimentally the influence of carrier fabric microstructure on the piezoresistive sensing response and model the microstructure-property-sensing response with an aim at optimizing sensitivity;
  4. to establish sensor data interpretation and baseline calibration strategies for carbon nanotube sensing layers; and
  5. to examine the sensing thresholds and sensitivities to various structural performance measures such as strain, formation and propagation of micro- and macro-damage, temperature effects, humidity, and corrosion using laboratory experiments and simulation.

The integrated research approach encompasses four key research thrusts that follow a systematic investigation starting from the micro-scale on a sensor architecture level and ending with large-scale testing of structural beams and subsequent optimization.Research approach

The broader impacts include future development of a sensing approach that has the potential to revolutionize the current field of structural health monitoring as it enables distributed sensing capabilities combined with high application flexibility. Distributed sensing significantly increases the chance of capturing localized micro-damage that can lead to catastrophic failure if not detected early resulting in enhanced safety and reliability. The research will ultimately increase sustainability and safety of critical structures to benefit society and the environment. Long-term impacts may result in enhanced methodologies for structural life prediction and monitoring protocols.

A focal point for active exchange and interaction is the internationally renowned Center for Composite Materials (CCM) at the University of Delaware. Founded in 1974, the CCM is a model of industry-government-academia cooperative research. Over its 35+ year history CCM has been host to numerous centers of excellence and was one of the first NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERC) in 1985. The Center also enjoys the active participation of more than 70 industrial partners in the University-Industry Research Consortium. The educational mission of the Center is reflected in the extensive courses developed by affiliated faculty as well as a very active undergraduate intern program, with over 50 participating students.