Such materials are stronger and more lightweight than aluminum, but they are also more difficult to inspect for damage, because their surfaces usually don't reveal underlying problems.
"With aluminum, if you hit it, there's a dent there. With a composite, oftentimes if you hit it, there's no surface damage, even though there may be internal damage," says Brian L. Wardle, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.
Wardle and his colleagues have devised a new way to detect that internal damage, using a simple handheld device and heat-sensitive camera. Their approach also requires engineering the composite materials to include carbon nanotubes, which generate the heat necessary for the test.
Their approach, described in the March 22 online edition of the journal Nanotechnology, could allow airlines to inspect their planes much more quickly, Wardle says. This project is part of a multiyear, aerospace-industry-funded effort to improve the mechanical properties of existing advanced aerospace-grade composites. The U.S. Air Force and Navy are also interested in the technology, and Wardle is working with them to develop it for use in their aircraft and vesselsAdvanced composite materials are commonly found not only in aircraft, but also cars, bridges and wind-turbine blades, Wardle says.
One method that inspectors now use to reveal damage in advanced composite materials is infrared thermography, which detects infrared radiation emitted when the surface is heated. In an advanced composite material, any cracks or delamination (separation of the layers that form the composite material) will redirect the flow of heat. That abnormal flow pattern can be seen with a heat-sensitive (thermographic) camera.
This is effective but cumbersome because it requires large heaters to be placed next to the surface, Wardle says. With his new approach, carbon nanotubes are incorporated into the composite material. When a small electric current is applied to the surface, the nanotubes heat up, which eliminates the need for any external heat source. The inspector can see the damage with a thermographic camera or goggles.
The new carbon nanotube hybrid materials that Wardle is developing have so far shown better mechanical properties, such as strength and toughness, than existing advanced composites.
Caroline McCall | EurekAlert!
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
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Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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