Electro-active polymers reinforced with carbon nanotubes have attracted many researchers in the recent years. Recent activities in this area show that conducting polymers with carbon nanotubes in an electrolytic medium possess actuation and sensing properties due to the change in bond length in the carbon atoms. However, their applications are limited due to their operation in a wet medium. In this paper, we explore the feasibility of electro-active polymers with dispersed carbon nanotubes that can be used for actuation and sensing in a dry medium like air to make them viable. Different polymer composites are considered for mixing with single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes manufactured by chemical vapor deposition technique. Various dispersing techniques for aligning the carbon nanotubes like smart blending and chaotic mixing are also explored. The feasibility of actuation and sensing of these composites are verified by experimentation on several macrosystems comprised of these functional nanostructures.
In many structural vibration control applications, strain sensors play a key role in the design and implementation of the vibration controller. Different types of sensors are commercially available, among which is the poled polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF), an attractive sensor for large bandwidths and low costs. Despite such attractive features, PVDF-based sensors have limited use due to their low efficiency (mechanical energy to electrical energy conversion factor). To remedy this, nanocrystals and nanostructures have been recently cited as candidate materials that can be engineered to exhibit enhanced or entirely new properties for use in different applications. Particularly, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have raised considerable interest in the scientific community due to their size and wide range of outstanding material properties. Given the moduli and strength values of CNTs, they are ideal filler materials for high performance (polymer) composite materials with unbeatable modulus-to-weight and strength-to-weight ratios -- the attributes that are essential for structural vibration control of a wide variety of industrial equipment and systems. Along this line of reasoning, this paper undertakes the development and implementation of a novel sensor paradigm based on proper fusion of CNTs with PVDF materials.