Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Dr. Faysal Kolkailah


This research effort explored the possibility of using interwoven conductive and nonconductive fibers in a composite laminate for structural health monitoring (SHM). Traditional SHM systems utilize fiber optics, piezoelectrics, or detect defects by nondestructive test methods by use of sonar graphs or x-rays. However, these approaches are often expensive, time consuming and complicated.

The primary objective of this research was to apply a resistance based method of structural health monitoring to a composite structure to determine structural integrity and presence of defects.

The conductive properties of fiber such as carbon, copper, or constantan - a copper-nickel alloy - can be utilized as sensors within the structure. This allows the structure to provide feedback via electrical signals to a user which are essential for evaluating the health of the structure. In this research, the conductive fiber was made from constantan wire which was embedded within a composite laminate; whereas prepreg fiberglass, a nonconductive material, serves as the main structural element of the laminate. A composite laminate was constructed from four layers of TenCate 7781 “E” fiberglass and BT250E-1 resin prepreg. Integrating the constantan within the composite laminate provides a sensory element which supplies measurements of structural behavior. Thus, with fiberglass, epoxy, and a constantan conductive element, a three-part composite laminate is developed.

Test specimens used in this research were fabricated using a composite air press with the recommended manufacturer cure cycle. A TenCate BT250E-1 Resin System and 7781 "E" impregnated glass-fiber/epoxy weave was used. A constantan wire of 0.01” gauge diameter was integrated into the composite structure. The composite laminate specimen with the integrated SHM system was tested under tensile and flexural loads employing test standards specified by ASTM D3039 and D7264, respectively. These test methods were modified to determine the behavior of the laminate in the elastic range only. A tension and flexural delamination test case was also developed to investigate the sensitivity of the SHM system to inherent defects. Moreover, material characteristic tests were completed to validate manufacturer provided material characteristics. The specimens were tested while varying the constantan configurations, such as the sensor length and orientation. A variety of techniques to integrate the sensor were also investigated. Two different measurement methods were used to determine strain. Strain measurements were made with Instron Bluehill 2 software and correlated to strain obtained by the structural health monitoring system with the use of a data acquisition code written to interact with a micro-ohm-meter.

The experimental results showed good agreement between measurements made by the two different methods of measurement. Observations discovered that varying the length of the sensor element improved sensitivity, but resulted in different prediction models when compared to cases with less sensor length. The predictions are based on the gauge factor, which was determined for the each test case. This value provides the essential relationship between resistance and strain. Experiments proved that the measured gauge factor depended greatly on the sensor length and orientation. The correlation was of sufficient accuracy to predict strain values in a composite laminate without the use of any added tools or equipment besides the ohm-meter.

Analytical solutions to the loading cases were developed to validate results obtained during experiments. The solutions were in good agreement with the experimental results.