Simulcure Technique - Fabrication and Preparation of Structural Composites
A fabrication technique to prepare a composite structure with sensor elements distributed in 3-D space for visualizing stress distribution.
Trends in home automation, wearable electronics, and autonomous vehicles have created networked ecosystems, in which computers coexist and play a critical role. In these ecosystems, sensors provide necessary inputs to monitor the environment and take situation-specific action. Currently, sensors are separate components that must be fastened to a device, which adds steps to assembly, requires maintenance of additional inventory (wires, fasteners, etc.), and increases the cost of the final product. A sensor that is integral to various structural components in the design will foster a new design language that is simplistic without sacrificing functionality. In addition, market expansion and projected net economic value (> few billion dollars) of gadgets to be sold in these ecosystems necessitates innovation and differentiation among competitors. In this context, a fabrication method for monolithic structural parts with embedded sensors is anticipated to be an important differentiating component and enable the creation of a novel design language. Besides this need in consumer electronics, point sensors impose limitations to the fidelity of structural design validation experiments in automotive and aerospace systems. It is often necessary to understand the distribution of stress over the entirety of structure and point sensors add complexity to experiments that validate simulation studies.
Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Vishnu Baba Sundaresan, have invented a fabrication technique during which nano and microparticulate smart materials (piezoelectric, magnetoelectric, mechanoluminescent, etc.) are incorporated in a continuous polymer matrix via thermoelectric extrusion. This leads to a self-sensing structure with distributed sensor elements that can provide an optical or electrical signal. These signals are processed in a computer to visualize the internal and external stresses of the structure. This invention proposes a one-step technique to fabricate polymer composites of smart materials. Key components of this invention are micro-particulate mechanoluminescent, piezoelectric and photo-voltaic detectors that are dispersed in the resin layer of a fiber-reinforced composite. Mechanoluminescent materials respond to applied stress/strain and rate, they are functional even after micro-fractures, there is no electric connectivity required to read the signal out, and they are self-powered with a high processing temperature. The invention is currently in the early prototype development stage.