The cellular shapes of natural materials are the inspiration behind a new material with intelligent architecture, lightweight and 3D printed, developed by an international team of engineers.
The team, led by engineers from the University of Glasgow, blended a common form of industrial plastic with carbon nanotubes to create a stronger, stronger and smarter material than comparable conventional materials.
Nanotubes also allow otherwise non-conductive plastic to carry an electrical charge throughout its structure. When the structure is subjected to mechanical loads, its electrical resistance changes. This phenomenon, known as piezoresistivity, gives the material the ability to “feel” its own structural health.
Using advanced 3D printing techniques that provide a high level of control over the design of the printed structures, they have been able to create a series of intricate designs with a porous mesoscale architecture, which helps reduce the overall weight of each design and maximize the mechanical performance.
The team’s cellular designs are similar to porous materials found in the natural world, such as hives, sponges, and bones, which are lightweight yet sturdy.
Researchers believe their cellular materials could find new applications in medicine, prosthetics, and automotive and aerospace design, where low-density, tough materials with the ability to have too much sense of self are required.
The research is available online as a first-look document in the journal Advanced engineering materials.
In the paper, the researchers describe how they studied the energy-absorbing and self-sensing characteristics of three different nano-engineered designs that they printed using their custom material, which consists of a random copolymer of polypropylene and multi-walled carbon nanotubes. .
Of the three designs tested, they found that one exhibited the most effective mix of mechanical performance and auto-sensing capability: a cube-shaped “plate-lattice” incorporating dense flat sheets.
The reticular structure, when subjected to monotonous compression, exhibits an energy absorption capacity similar to nickel foams having the same relative density. It also outperformed a number of other conventional materials of the same density.
The research was led by Dr Shanmugam Kumar of the James Watt School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow, along with colleagues from Cambridge University Professor Vikram Deshpande and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Brian Wardle.
Dr. Kumar said, “Nature has a lot to teach engineers about how to balance properties and structure to create lightweight, high-performance materials. We took inspiration from these shapes to develop our new cellular materials, which offer unique advantages over those conventionally produced, counterparts and can be finely tuned to manipulate their physical properties.
“The random polypropylene copolymer we have chosen offers greater workability, better temperature resistance, better product consistency and better impact resistance. Carbon nanotubes help make it mechanically robust while imparting electrical conductivity. We can choose the l ‘amount of porosity in the design and architect of porous geometry to improve the specific mechanical properties of the mass.
“Lightweight, stronger and more self-sensitive materials like these have great potential for practical applications. They could help make lighter, more efficient bodywork, for example, or back braces for people with problems like scoliosis who can sense when their bodies are not receiving optimal support. They could even be used to create new forms of electrodes designed for batteries. “
The team’s article, titled “Multifunctionality of Nanoengineered Self-Sensing Lattices Enabled by Additive Manufacturing”, is published in Advanced engineering materials.
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Jabir Ubaid et al, Multifunctionality of Nanoengineered Self-Sensing Lattices Enabled by Additive Manufacturing, Advanced engineering materials (2022). DOI: 10.1002 / adem.202200194
Provided by the University of Glasgow
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