• In situ fabrication of carbon fibre–reinforced polymer composites with embedded piezoelectrics for inspection and energy harvesting applications

      Yan, Xue; Courtney, Charles; Bowen, Chris; Gathercole, Nicholas; Wen, Tao; Jia, Yu; Shi, Yu; Aerospace Research Institute of Material and Processing Technology; University of Bath; University of Chester
      Current in situ damage detection of fibre-reinforced composites typically uses sensors which are attached to the structure. This may make periodic inspection difficult for complex part geometries or in locations which are difficult to reach. To overcome these limitations, we examine the use of piezoelectric materials in the form of macro-fibre composites that are embedded into carbon fibre–reinforced polymer composites. Such a multi-material system can provide an in situ ability for damage detection, sensing or energy harvesting. In this work, the piezoelectric devices are embedded between the carbon fibre prepreg, and heat treated at elevated temperatures, enabling complete integration of the piezoelectric element into the structure. The impact of processing temperature on the properties of the macro-fibre composites are assessed, in particular with respect to the Curie temperature of the embedded ferroelectric. The mechanical properties of the carbon fibre–reinforced polymer composites are evaluated to assess the impact of the piezoelectric on tensile strength. The performance of the embedded piezoelectric devices to transmit and receive ultrasonic signals is evaluated, along with the potential to harvest power from mechanical strain for self-powered systems. Such an approach provides a route to create multi-functional materials.