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    • 2018-11-15 16:05:37
    • Article ID: 704104

    Self-Sensing Materials Are Here

    Next-generation composites may monitor their own structural health

    • Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      From left, Amit Naskar, Ngoc Nguyen and Christopher Bowland in ORNL’s Carbon and Composites Group bring a new capability—structural health monitoring—to strong, lightweight materials promising for transportation applications. The spools contain fibers from various stages within the carbon fiber production process. Bottles contain neat epoxy resin (white) and nanoparticle-loaded epoxy (gray) in which fiber tows will be dipped and dried to create a thin coating on the fibers. Testing ten concentrations of nanoparticles on coated fiber, the researchers found an optimum concentration that increased mechanical strength and enhanced structural health monitoring sensitivity.

    • Credit: Christopher Bowland and Sherry Razo/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      Next-generation fiber-reinforced composites may be self-sensing and issue warnings about structural threats.

    • Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      From left, Naskar, Bowland and Nguyen examined a cantilever made of fiber-reinforced composite with the fibers aligned in one direction and measured its electrical resistance in response to stress.

    • Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

      Bowland affixed electrodes on both sides of the cantilever. In a dynamic mechanical analyzer, he clamped one end to hold the beam stationary. The analyzer applied force at the other end to flex the cantilever 100 times. After every 10 flexes, strain was increased, and the electrical resistance was measured as a function of stress to quantify the structural health monitoring sensitivity.

    Carbon fiber composites—lightweight and strong—are great structural materials for automobiles, aircraft and other transportation vehicles. They consist of a polymer matrix, such as epoxy, into which reinforcing carbon fibers have been embedded. Because of differences in the mechanical properties of these two materials, the fibers can detach from the matrix under excessive stresses or fatigue. That means damage in carbon fiber composite structures can remain hidden below the surface, undetectable by visual inspection, potentially leading to catastrophic failure. 

    “Carbon fiber composites fail catastrophically, so you won’t see damage until the entire structure has failed,” said Chris Bowland, a Wigner Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “By knowing what’s going on within the composite, you can better judge its health and know if there is damage that needs to be repaired.”

    Recently, Bowland and Amit Naskar, leader of ORNL’s Carbon and Composites Group, invented a roll-to-roll process to coat electrically conductive carbon fibers with semiconducting silicon carbide nanoparticles. This nanomaterial-embedded composite is stronger than other fiber-reinforced composites and imbued with a new capability—the ability to monitor its own structural health.

    When enough coated fiber is embedded in a polymer, the fibers create an electrical network and the bulk composite becomes electrically conductive. The semiconducting nanoparticles can disrupt this electrical conductivity in response to applied forces, adding an electromechanical functionality to the composite.  

    If the composite is strained, the connectivity of the coated fibers is disrupted and the electrical resistance in the material changes. Should storm turbulence cause a composite airplane wing to flex, an electrical signal may warn the plane’s computer that the wing has endured excessive stress and prompt a recommendation for an inspection.

    ORNL’s roll-to-roll demonstration proved in principle that the method could be scaled up for high-volume production of coated fibers for next-generation composites. Self-sensing composites, perhaps made with a renewable polymer matrix and low-cost carbon fibers, could find themselves in ubiquitous products, even including 3D-printed vehicles and buildings.

    To fabricate nanoparticle-embedded fibers, the researchers loaded spools of high-performance carbon fiber onto rollers that dipped the fiber in epoxy loaded with commercially available nanoparticles about the width of a virus (45–65 nanometers). The fiber was then dried in an oven to set its coating.

    To test the strength with which nanoparticle-embedded fibers adhered to the polymer matrix, the researchers made fiber-reinforced composite beams with the fibers aligned in one direction. Bowland conducted stress tests in which both ends of this cantilever were fixed while a machine assessing mechanical performance pushed on the beam’s middle until it failed. To investigate the sensing capabilities of the composite, he affixed electrodes on both sides of the cantilever. In a machine called a “dynamic mechanical analyzer,” he clamped one end to hold the cantilever stationary. The machine applied force at the other end to flex the beam while Bowland monitored the change in electrical resistance. ORNL postdoctoral fellow Ngoc Nguyen conducted additional tests in a Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer to study chemical bonds within the composites and improve understanding of the enhanced mechanical strength that was observed. 

    The researchers also tested composites made with different amounts of nanoparticles for the ability to dissipate energy—as measured by vibration-damping behavior—a capability that would benefit structural materials subjected to impacts, shakes, and other sources of stress and strain. At every concentration, the nanoparticles enhanced energy dissipation (by 65 to 257 percent).

    Bowland and Naskar have applied for a patent for the process to make self-sensing carbon fiber composites.

    “Dip coating offers a new route to utilize novel nanomaterials under development,” Bowland said.

    ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program supported the research, which is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

    The title of the paper is “Roll-to-Roll Processing of Silicon Carbide Nanoparticle-Deposited Carbon Fiber for Multifunctional Composites.”

    UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE's Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://science.energy.gov/. —by Dawn Levy

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    Defining Quality Virus Data(sets)

    In Nature Biotechnology, as more and more researchers continue to assemble new genome sequences of uncultivated viruses, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) led a community effort to develop guidelines and best practices for defining virus data quality.

    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

    Magnetic field lines tangled like spaghetti in a bowl might be behind the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe. That's the result of a new computational study by researchers from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which simulated particle emissions from distant active galaxies.

    Argonne scientists maximize the effectiveness of platinum in fuel cells

    In new research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and published in Science, scientists have identified a new catalyst that uses only about a quarter as much platinum as current technology by maximizing the effectiveness of the available platinum.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    Barely scratching the surface: A new way to make robust membranes

    Argonne researchers have demonstrated a new technique's viability for membranes.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    Sierra Snowpack Could Drop Significantly By End of Century

    A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that analyzed the headwater regions of California's 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state's surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.


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    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.

    Department of Energy to Provide $24 Million for Computer-Based Materials Design

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to provide $24 million in new and renewal research awards to advance the development of sophisticated software for computer-based design of novel materials.

    Argonne scientists recognized for decades of pioneering leadership in research

    Argonne scientists Ali Erdemir and Jack Vaughey were named 2018 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    Kurfess, Smith join ORNL to lead advanced manufacturing initiatives

    Two leaders in US manufacturing innovation, Thomas Kurfess and Scott Smith, are joining the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support its pioneering research in advanced manufacturing.

    Four Berkeley Lab Scientists Named AAAS Fellows

    Four Berkeley Lab scientists - Allen Goldstein, Sung-Hou Kim, Susannah Tringe, and Katherine Yelick - have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society.

    U.S. Department of Energy to Host Nationwide CyberForce Competition(tm) December 1

    Students from dozens of colleges/universities will participate in the U.S. Department of Energy's CyberForce Competition(tm) this weekend

    Seven ORNL researchers named 2019 INCITE award winners

    Seven researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been chosen by the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment, also known as INCITE, program to lead scientific investigations that require the nation's most powerful computers. The ORNL-based projects span a broad range of the scientific spectrum and represent the potential of high-performance computing in ensuring America's scientific competitiveness and energy security.


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    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.

    Subtlety and the Selective Art of Separating Lanthanides

    Unexpected molecular interactions involving water clusters have a subtle, yet profound, effect on extractants picking their targets.

    Review Examines the Science and Needs of Nitrogen-Based Transformations

    Advances in biochemistry and catalysis could lead to faster, greener nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

    Quickly Capture Tiny Particles Reacting

    New method takes a snapshot every millisecond of groups of light-scattering particles, showing what happens during industrially relevant reactions.

    New Technology Consistently Identifies Proteins from a Dozen Cells

    A new platform melding microfluidics and robotics allows more in-depth bioanalysis with fewer cells than ever before.

    Optimal Foraging: How Soil Microbes Adapt to Nutrient Constraints

    How microbial communities adjust to nutrient-poor soils at the genomic and proteomic level gives scientists insights into land use.


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