PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Synthesis and modelling of multifunctional hierarchical thin-ply/CNTs/GNP composites
While carbon fibres are highly conductive, their composites (eg carbon fibre-reinforced epoxy, usually in laminate form) are not. Consequently, to increase the conductivity and improve the Lightning Strike Protection (LSP) and Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) of aeronautical composite structures, one has to resort to incorporating metallic meshes, with the undesirable consequence of increasing weight and manufacturing and maintenance costs.
In order to remove the need for metallic meshes, much effort has been expended to obtain conductive composite laminates through the introduction of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) in the epoxy, creating hierarchical CF/CNT/GNP composites. Unfortunately, the conductivity level reached using “conventional” composite laminates is not enough to satisfy the necessary design requirements.
New opportunities will arise when combining conductive nanoparticles with a new class of composite materials: Thin-Ply Laminates. Thin Plies have a thickness that can be as low as 15 μm (cf. 125 μm for conventional laminates) and are characterized by a highly uniform fibre distribution that results in the suppression of subcritical matrix damage and an improvement in mechanical properties.
We have very recently demonstrated that enhancing thin-ply laminates with CNT assemblies yielded a large increase (~2000%) in through-thickness electrical conductivity over conventional laminates suggesting that this technology has the potential to revolutionize the design and manufacture of monolithic conductive aerostructures.
This project will further investigate the synthesis and physical properties of multifunctional hierarchical Thin-Ply composite laminates. The work proposed encompasses several disciplines, namely: material science, chemistry, physics, and engineering. The work will be conducted in collaboration with international non-academic research centres (INEGI and Aten Center), and multi-sectoral industrial partners (TexTreme, Airbus, Bombardier, and Nashero).
Primary supervisor: Dr. Giuseppe Catalanotti (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)
Secondary supervisor: Professor Stephen Hawkins (Chemistry)
External Partner/Organisation: This work will be conducted in collaboration with international non-academic research centres (INEGI and Aten Center), and multi-sectoral industrial partners (TexTreme, Airbus, Bombardier, and Nashero).