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Residual Strains using Integrated Continuous Fiber Optic Sensing in Thermoplastic Composites and Structural Health Monitoring

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The evolution of spatially resolved internal strain/stress during the manufacturing of thermoplastic composites and subsequent relaxation from water intake are evaluated using an in-situ fiber optic sensor corresponding to a coated optical glass fiber with a nominal diameter of 160 μm. Unidirectional carbon fiber-polyamide 6 composites are produced using compression molding with an embedded fiber optic for strain measurement. The distributed fiber optic based strain sensor is placed in an arrangement to capture 0, 45, and 90° strains in the composite to resolve in-plane strain tensor. Strains are monitored in the direction of fiber optic sensor along its length at high resolution during the various stages of compression molding process. Results indicate considerable internal strains leading to residual stress at the end of processing step along the off-axis (45°) and transverse (90°) directions, and small strains in the carbon fiber pre-preg (0°) direction. At the end of compression molding process, an average of 7000 and 10,000 compressive micro-strains are obtained for residual state of strain in the off-axis and transverse direction. Since water/moisture infusion affects the mechanical properties of polyamide-6 matrix resin, these composite panels with embedded sensors targeted for marine applications are monitored in a water bath at 40 °C simulating accelerated testing conditions. Using the same fiber optic sensor based technique, the strain relaxation was observed during water uptake demonstrating in-situ strain monitoring during both manufacturing and subsequent composite implementation/application environment. The technique presented in this paper shows the potential of optimizing time-temperature-pressure protocols typically utilized in thermoplastic manufacturing, and continuous life-cycle monitoring of composite materials using a small diameter and inexpensive distributed fiber optic sensing.

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Professor Penumadu would like to acknowledge the support of the Office of Naval Research Solid Mechanics Program through ONR Award No: N00014-16-1-2765 and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation from the US Department of Energy for various ongoing carbon fiber composite related research projects in his research group and this work benefitted greatly from both infrastructure and intellectual resources. IFREMR facilitated the visit of Mr. Mael Arhant through financial support to Dr. Davies. Authors appreciate the support of LUNA and technical suggestions of Mr. Matt Davis and Dr. Stephen Young.

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Correspondence to D. Penumadu.

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Arhant, M., Meek, N., Penumadu, D. et al. Residual Strains using Integrated Continuous Fiber Optic Sensing in Thermoplastic Composites and Structural Health Monitoring. Exp Mech 58, 167–176 (2018).

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