Integration of smart materials into an engineered system in various actuation, sensing and energy harvesting applications presents engineering challenges that should be addressed via system level models. Synopsis of ongoing research in our lab towards developing a smart material system is presented here.
This research program focuses on the development of a new additive manufacturing technique for rapid prototyping of seamless multifunctional composites with an ionomers matrix and nanophase smart materials. This technique is built around thermal sintering of nanophase structural ionomers (polymers) and smart materials in which the matrix is constructed with nanoscale precision in three-dimensions and simultaneously cured to obtain composites with intrinsic actuation and sensing properties. For this reason, the principal investigators refer to this technique as ‘Simulcure’ and the resulting multifunctional composites as ‘Simulcure composites’. The technique offers the unique advantage of requiring a single manufacturing step to produce structural composites with smart materials at intrinsic locations that cannot be achieved using contemporary fabrication techniques.
Mechanoluminescence (ML) is a property of inorganic and organic materials that describes the emission of light due from the application of force. Inorganic crystals (mostly phosphors) and certain organic macromolecules exhibit elastico-ML and are a natural fit for structural health monitoring (SHM) of composite structures. Composites with particulate ML crystals enable the visualization of stress distribution over a plane and over contoured surfaces in a spatially continuous manner. Imaging ML composites with affordable high-resolution imaging methods further enables the creation of high-resolution validation method for computational methods. Besides model validation, we are pursuing various approaches to investigate the application of ML phosphors in structural and cosmetic applications.