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Nanotubes Boost Structural Integrity of Composites

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Researchers at Rensselaer have discovered a new technique for provoking unusual crazing behavior in epoxy composites. The crazing, which causes the composite to deform into a network of nanoscale pillar-like fibers that bridge together both sides of a crack and slow its growth, could lead to tougher, more durable components for aircraft and automobiles.Image Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

A new research discovery at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could lead to tougher, more durable composite frames for aircraft, watercraft, and automobiles. Epoxy composites are increasingly being incorporated into the design of new jets, planes, and other vehicles. Composite material frames are extremely lightweight, which lowers the overall weight of the vehicle and boosts fuel efficiency. The downside is that epoxy composites can be brittle, which is detrimental to its structural integrity. Professor Nikhil Koratkar, of Rensselaer’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, has demonstrated that incorporating chemically treated carbon nanotubes into an epoxy composite can significantly improve the overall toughness, fatigue resistance, and durability of a composite frame. When subjected to repetitive stress, a composite frame infused with treated nanotubes exhibited a five-fold reduction in crack growth rate as compared to a frame infused with untreated nanotubes, and a 20-fold reduction when compared to a composite frame made without nanotubes.
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