2006 NIP Award Recipient
Active Nanocomposites: Development of Sensors and Actuators for Future Multifunctional Space Structures
Zoubeida Ounaies - Texas A&M University
Our objective is the development of novel polymeric composites for multifunctional applications that require self-sensing and self-actuation capabilities. We propose to design nanoinclusion-filled composites whose morphology in the polymer matrix is micro-tailored by an electric field. The goal is to achieve alignment and dispersion of the nanoinclusions, resulting in a composite that combines high dielectric constant with low electric conduction. Electromechanical response of such nanocomposites will exceed the best ceramics currently available and preserve advantages of the polymers. These novel materials will have tremendous impact in the development and integration of adaptive, active and smart materials for space vehicles, including those in deployable aerospace structures and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The PI will combine her expertise in electroactive polymers and nanocomposite processing by pursuing the judicious control of nanoparticle topology, composition and interfacial chemistry to develop lightweight, structural polymer nanocomposites with designed-in multifunctionality, where structural integrity and reinforcement is coupled to sensing and actuation. Initial demonstration of enhanced active performance from polyimide nanocomposites in the PIÕs laboratory provides a foundation for a systematic, focused effort toward these goals. While the use of nanoparticles as structural reinforcing agents in polymer matrices has been pursued previously, their simultaneous use for the development of inherently multifunctional materials, with enhanced electromechanical coupled response and distributed sensing, has not been exploited and is a unique aspect of the proposed research. The proposed organic nanocomposite structure resulting from this research will exhibit self-prognosis through real-time stress and strain sensing, and electromechanical actuation in response to an external stimulus. This unique characteristic arises directly from a synergistic relationship between nanoparticle type, interface and distribution.