Multi-Scale Reinforced Carbon Fiber Nanocomposites
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Carbon fiber polymer composites are utilized in many industries including in commercial and military aircraft and space vehicles because of their lighter weight and superior strength compared to aluminum and steel. Due to the insulating nature of epoxy-based polymer composites and the dielectric breakdown of the epoxy, catastrophic failure may occur when subjected to high voltages (as in a lightning strike). The addition of carbon nanofibers and carbon nanotubes to the epoxy resin has the potential to improve electrical deficiencies and enhance mechanical characteristics, as well as add self-sensing and actuation capabilities to the original composite. The focus of the present research is to modify the epoxy in traditional carbon fiber composites through addition of carbon nanofibers. As a first step, this study aims to develop an effective technique to disperse carbon nanofibers in the epoxy using mechanical stirring along with sonication, and characterize cured composite samples of various nanomaterial concentrations by optical microscopy, and mechanical and electrical characterization. Once the dispersion procedure is finalized, the nanofibers must be aligned in a desired direction to maximize the extent to which they enhance the original composite. This is achieved by placing electrodes on opposite sides of the material to apply an electric field while the epoxy cures, as secondary bonding joins the aligned nanofibers together. The Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM) process is currently used in industry and serves as a basis to add the modified epoxy resin to the carbon fiber fabric. Results will be tested and compared to a standard carbon fiber composite to optimize the overall procedure. With greater understanding and control of nanoparticles, it will be possible to design composites for specific applications in the not-so-distant future.
VanRooyen, Ainsley (2008). Multi-Scale Reinforced Carbon Fiber Nanocomposites. Available electronically from