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Development of hierarchical composites for structural applications

Project overview

The application of polymer composites to primary structural applications has been hindered by their sensitivity to damage and defects. Various approaches have been pursued to address these concerns, including through-thickness reinforcement and advanced formulation of matrix resins, but both such approaches are expensive and tend to lead to reductions in pristine and fatigue performance of these composites. Recently, the introduction of carbon nanotubes to the fibre reinforced composites to produce hierarchical composites have been indentified as a promising means of addressing concerns with damage tolerance without compromising pristine properties. In particular, formulation of such hierarchical composites has been identified as a means of enhancing the performance of low-cost composite systems, such as those used in marine, infrastructure and transport applications. However, work to date on such materials has been hindered by processing difficulties associated with the high viscosity of CNT reinforced resins. The objective of the proposed research will be to build on the extensive experience at ICL on the formulation of hierarchical composites. This will entail pursuing two promising routes to introduce CNTs into polymer composites. The first will entail grafting CNTs onto the surface of woven carbon fibre cloth, using a plasma processing route to form a CNT reinforced preform. Consequently the resin will be introduced into the preform using conventional liquid resin routes such as RTM to produce composite laminates. The second route will entail introduction of CNTs directly into the matrix resin via a mixing method, and then introducing the modified resin to the reinforcement fibres using a powder pregging route. The aspiration of the research will be to demonstrate enhancement in critical mechanical properties, such as delamination resistance and longitudinal compressive strength. The research will culminate in the fabrication and characterisation of representative structural elements; skin/stiffener sections, which are recognised by industry as a key step in demonstrating new materials for structural applications.


Mohd Shukur Zainol Abidin
Affiliated PhD student

Prof. Alexander Bismarck
Prof. Milo Shaffer
Dr. Emile Greenhalgh 



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