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Damage detection in laminar thermoplastic composite materials by means of embedded optical fibers

DOI: 10.2298/hemind0608176k

Keywords: real-time damage monitoring , laminar thermoplastic composite materials , fiberoptic sensors

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Abstract:

This paper investigates the possibility of applying optical fibers as sensors for investigating low energy impact damage in laminar thermoplastic composite materials, in real time. Impact toughness testing by a Charpy impact pendulum with different loads was conducted in order to determine the method for comparative measurement of the resulting damage in the material. For that purpose intensity-based optical fibers were built in to specimens of composite materials with Kevlar 129 (the DuPont registered trade-mark for poly(p-phenylene terephthalamide)) woven fabric as reinforcement and thermoplastic PVB (poly(vinyl butyral)) as the matrix. In some specimens part of the layers of Kevlar was replaced with metal mesh (50% or 33% of the layers). Experimental testing was conducted in order to observe and analyze the response of the material under multiple low-energy impacts. Light from the light-emitting diode (LED) was launched to the embedded optical fiber and was propagated to the phototransistor-based photo detector. During each impact, the signal level, which is proportional to the light intensity in the optical fiber, drops and then slowly recovers. The obtained signals were analyzed to determine the appropriate method for real time damage monitoring. The major part of the damage occurs during impact. The damage reflects as a local, temporary release of strain in the optical fiber and an increase of the signal level. The obtained results show that intensity-based optical fibers could be used for measuring the damage in laminar thermoplastic composite materials. The acquired optical fiber signals depend on the type of material, but the same set of rules (relatively different, depending on the type of material) could be specified. Using real time measurement of the signal during impact and appropriate analysis enables quantitative evaluation of the impact damage in the material. Existing methods in most cases use just the intensity of the signal before and after the impact, as the measure of damage. This method could be used to monitor the damage in real time, giving warnings before fatal damage occurs.

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