Toward Practical Non-Contact Optical Strain Sensing Using Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes
Sun, Peng; Bachilo, Sergei M.; Nagarajaiah, Satish; Weisman, R. Bruce
Progress is reported in an emerging non-contact strain sensing technology based on optical properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). In this strain-sensing smart skin (“S4”) method, nanotubes are dilutely embedded in a thin polymer film applied to a substrate of interest. Subsequent strain in the substrate is transferred to the nanotubes, causing systematic spectral shifts in their characteristic short-wave infrared fluorescence peaks. A small diode laser excites a spot on the coated surface, and the resulting emission is captured and spectrally analyzed to deduce local strain. To advance performance of the method, we prepare S4 films with structurally selected SWCNTs. These give less congested emission spectra that can be analyzed precisely. However, quenching interactions with the polymer host reduce SWCNT emission intensity by an order of magnitude. The instrumentation that captures SWCNT fluorescence has been made lighter and smaller for hand-held use or mounting onto a positioning mechanism that makes efficient automated strain scans of laboratory test specimens. Statistical analysis of large S4 data sets exposes uncertainties in measurements at single positions plus spatial variations in deduced baseline strain levels. Future refinements to S4 film formulation and processing should provide improved strain sensing performance suitable for industrial application.
nanocomposites; short-wave infrared fluorescence; strain mapping; structural health monitoring; SWCNT