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Using Nanotubes To Detect and Repair Cracks in Aircraft Wings, Other Structures

SpecialChem / Nov 12, 2007

Adding even a small amount of carbon nanotubes can go a long way toward enhancing the strength, integrity, and safety of plastic materials widely used in engineering applications, according to a new study. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a simple new technique for identifying and repairing small, potentially dangerous cracks in high-performance aircraft wings and many other structures made from polymer composites. By infusing a polymer with electrically conductive carbon nanotubes, and then monitoring the structure's electrical resistance, the researchers were able to pinpoint the location and length of a stress-induced crack in a composite structure. Real-time detection and repair of fatigue-induced damage will greatly enhance the performance, reliability, and safety of structural components in a variety of engineering systems, according to principal investigator Nikhil A. Koratkar, an associate professor in Rensselaer's Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering.

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