Fibre-reinforced composites are the modern materials of choice where high performance must be combined with low weight, such as aerospace structures (aeroplanes, wind turbines). However, impact damage to composite structures can be difficult to detect but result in a drastic reduction in mechanical properties. We are adopting a bio-inspired approach to effect damage detection and self-healing.
This is a collaborative area of research with Ian Bond and Richard Trask in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, within the ACCIS composites research group. We are providing novel damage detection and self-healing chemistries, to combine with their ability to manufacture and incorporate multifunctional hollow fibres, microcapsules and vascular networks within both composite laminates and sandwich structures. The essential chemistry relies on catalysts which are ‘triggered’ by damage events to cause the polymerisation of a reservoir of monomer held within the composite structure.