Synthesis and characterization of a carbon nanotube based composite strain sensor

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Khalid Lafdi


In order to more effectively monitor the health of composite structures, a fuzzy fiber strain sensor was created. The fuzzy fiber is a bundle of glass fibers with carbon nanotubes or nanofibers grown on the surface using a novel chemical vapor deposition process. The nanotube coating makes the fiber bundle conductive while the small conductive path increases sensitivity. The fuzzy fiber sensor can replace conventional metal foil strain gauges in composite applications. The sensor was first characterized by use of a micro-tension test to generate load vs. resistance plots to demonstrate the feasibility of the sensor. The fibers were then cast into epoxy dogbone specimens to enable testing with an extensometer to quantify its strain sensitivity. Sensors were then embedded in carbon fiber prepreg panels. Specimens were prepared to demonstrate their performance in a composite laminate typical of aerospace structures. A multi-axial specimen was constructed to test sensor response to longitudinal, transverse and off-axis loading cases. Cyclic tests were performed to check for hysteresis or non-reversible changes to the sensor. A finite element model was created to compare the experimental results to the expected behavior based on the Poisson effect.


Strain gages Design and construction, Carbon nanotubes, Composite materials Stability, Detectors, Mechanical Engineering, carbon nanotube, structural health monitoring, composites, strain sensing, self-sensing composites, CNT strain gage

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2016, author