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Reflexive Composite Aerostructures Identify and Heal Damage in Flight

  • Monday, 19th November 2007
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Cornerstone Research Group (CRG) has developed bio-inspired, reflexive composites that allow aerostructures to heal themselves during flight.

Designed to mimic the human reflex response, reflexive composites sense structural damage, respond quickly and autonomously to the damage, and heal the area while keeping the operator informed of the healing process.

CRG teamed with Franklin Innovation and Acellent Technologies to integrate a piezoelectric-based structural health monitoring (SHM) system and an autonomous control system. The reflexive composite system is integrated with SHM to provide continuous feedback to the control system regarding the structural integrity of the composite panels. The SHM continually scans the structure looking for damage and analyzing the information by magnitude, physical size, and zone prioritization. Damage is assessed on a predetermined scale for vehicle survival. The control system works autonomously, responding to damage and informing the vehicle operator of the status.

CRG’s healable resin system has been tailored to focus on strength recovery, shape recovery, and polymer healing. Reflexive panels have demonstrated the ability to retain 90% of flexural strength and modulus after yield and subsequent healing cycle exposure.

Reflexive composites allow aerostructures to seal micro-cracks, heal delamination, and restore aerodynamic surfaces while remaining in flight.


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