Renewable energy production has become a key research driver during the last decade. Wind energy represents a ready technology for large-scale implementation in locations all around the world. While important research is conducted to optimize wind energy production efficiency, a critical issue consists of monitoring the structural integrity and functionality of these large structures during their operational life cycle. This paper investigates the durability of a soft elastomeric capacitor strain sensing membrane, designed for structural health monitoring of wind turbines, when exposed to aggressive environmental conditions. The sensor is a capacitor made of three thin layers of an SEBS polymer in a sandwich configuration. The inner layer is doped with titania and acts as the dielectric, while the external layers are filled with carbon black and work as the conductive plates. Here, a variety of samples, not limited to the sensor configuration but also including its dielectric layer, were fabricated and tested within an accelerated weathering chamber (QUV) by simulating thermal, humidity, and UV radiation cycles. A variety of other tests were performed in order to characterize their mechanical, thermal, and electrical performance in addition to their solar reflectance. These tests were carried out before and after the QUV exposures of 1, 7, 15, and 30 days. The tests showed that titania inclusions improved the sensor durability against weathering. These findings contribute to better understanding the field behavior of these skin sensors, while future developments will concern the analysis of the sensing properties of the skin after aging.
Concrete is widely applied in the construction sector for its reliable mechanical performance, its easiness of use and low costs. It also appears promising for enhancing the thermal-energy behavior of buildings thanks to its capability to be doped with multifunctional fillers. In fact, key studies acknowledged the benefits of thermally insulated concretes for applications in ceilings and walls. At the same time, thermal capacity also represents a key property to be optimized, especially for lightweight constructions. In this view, Thermal-Energy Storage (TES) systems have been recently integrated into building envelopes for increasing thermal inertia. More in detail, numerical experimental investigations showed how Phase Change materials (PCMs), as an acknowledged passive TES strategy, can be effectively included in building envelope, with promising results in terms of thermal buffer potentiality. In particular, this work builds upon previous papers aimed at developing the new PCM-filled concretes for structural applications and optimized thermalenergy efficiency, and it is focused on the development of a new experimental method for testing such composite materials in thermal-energy dynamic conditions simulated in laboratory by exposing samples to environmentally controlled microclimate while measuring thermal conductivity and diffusivity by means of transient plane source techniques. The key findings show how the new composites are able to increasingly delay the thermal wave with increasing the PCM concentration and how the thermal conductivity varies during the course of the phase change, in both melting and solidification processes. The new analysis produces useful findings in proposing an effective method for testing composite materials with adaptive thermal performance, much needed by the scientific community willing to study building envelopes dynamics.
The recent progress of Nanotechnology allowed the development of new smart materials in several fields of engineering. In particular, innovative construction materials with multifunctional enhanced properties can be produced. The paper presents an experimental characterization on cement-matrix pastes doped with Carbon Nanotubes, Carbon Nano-fibers, Carbon Black and Graphene Nano-platelets. Both electro-mechanical and thermo-physical investigations have been carried out. The conductive nano-inclusions provide the cementitious matrix with piezo-resistive properties allowing the detection of external strain and stress changes. Thereby, traditional building materials, such as concrete and cementitious materials in general, would be capable of self-monitoring the state of deformation they are subject to, giving rise to diffuse sensing systems of structural integrity. Besides supplying self-sensing abilities, carbon nano-fillers may change mechanical, physical and thermal properties of cementitious composites. The experimental tests of the research have been mainly concentrated on the thermal conductivity and the optical properties of the different nano-modified materials, in order to make a critical comparison between them. The aim of the work is the characterization of an innovative multifunctional composite capable of combining self-monitoring properties with proper mechanical and thermal-energy efficiency characteristics. The potential applications of these nano-modified materials cover a wide range of possibilities, such as structural elements, floors, geothermal piles, radiant systems and more.