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19 March 2008 Manufacturing technique for robust and modular smart composites
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Smart composites are composite structures that possess sensory and actuating properties through embedded transducers. In engineering practice the embedded transducers are often lead zirconium titanate (PZT) wafers coated on both sides with sputtered nickel or silver electrodes, employing the direct and inverse piezoelectric effect to sense and actuate strain, respectively. Structural composites provide the fragile PZT wafers with needed protection for practical use. A robust electrical connection to each wafer side is the primary challenge, particularly when embedding multiple wafer layers. Previous efforts involved attaching single wire leads to the electrode surfaces, leading to wire breakage or wafer micro-cracking under the high-pressure composite cure. A new approach uses conductive wire mesh layers throughout the composite ply area. Such meshes are advantageous in both the manufacturing process and the performance of the finished product. Standard composite manufacturing techniques are used. Multiple layers of PZT wafers can be robustly embedded with each having its own electrical address. The resulting smart composite is entirely modular: each embedded transducer can be reconfigured on the fly to serve as bimorph or unimorph strain sensor or actuator. Uses include active and passive structural health monitoring device and part of a high-precision active vibration damping system.
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Grace Kessenich and Baruch Pletner "Manufacturing technique for robust and modular smart composites", Proc. SPIE 6930, Industrial and Commercial Applications of Smart Structures Technologies 2008, 69300G (19 March 2008);

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