Applications of a nanocomposite-inspiredin-situbroadband ultrasonic sensor to acousto-ultrasonics-based passive and active structural health monitoring

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A novel nanocomposite-inspired in-situ broadband ultrasonic sensor previously developed, with carbon black as the nanofiller and polyvinylidene fluoride as the matrix, was networked for acousto-ultrasonic wave-based passive and active structural health monitoring (SHM). Being lightweight and small, this kind of sensor was proven to be capable of perceiving strain perturbation in virtue of the tunneling effect in the formed nanofiller conductive network when acousto-ultrasonic waves traverse the sensor. Proof-of-concept validation was implemented, to examine the sensor performance in responding to acousto-ultrasonic waves in a broad frequency regime: from acoustic emission (AE) of lower frequencies to guided ultrasonic waves (GUWs) of higher frequencies. Results have demonstrated the high fidelity, ultrafast response and high sensitivity of the sensor to acousto-ultrasonic waves up to 400 kHz yet with an ultra-low magnitude (of the order of micro-strain). The sensor is proven to possess sensitivity and accuracy comparable with commercial piezoelectric ultrasonic transducers, whereas with greater flexibility in accommodating curved structural surfaces. Application paradigms of using the sensor for damage evaluation have spotlighted the capability of the sensor in compromising “sensing cost” with “sensing effectiveness” for passive AE- or active GUW-based SHM.

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