Structural topology has a large impact on the flexural stiffness of a beam structure. Reversible attachment between discrete substructures allows for control of shear stress transfer between structural elements, thus stiffness modulation. Electrostatic adhesion has shown promise for providing a reversible latching mechanism for controllable internal connectivity. Building on previous research, a thin film copper polyimide laminate has been used to incorporate high voltage electrodes to Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) sandwich structures. The level of electrostatic holding force across the electrode interface is key to the achievable level of stiffness modulation. The use of non-flat interlocking core structures can allow for a significant increase in electrode contact area for a given core geometry, thus a greater electrostatic holding force. Interlocking core geometries based on cosine waves can be Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machined from Rohacell IGF 110 Foam core. These Interlocking Core structures could allow for enhanced variable stiffness functionality compared to basic planar electrodes. This novel concept could open up potential new applications for electrostatically induced variable stiffness structures.
Additional functionality within load bearing components holds potential for adding value to a structure, design or product. We consider the adaptation of an established technology, electrostatic adhesion or electroadhesion, for application in glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite materials. Electroadhesion uses high potential difference (~2-3 kV) between co-planar electrodes to generate temporary holding forces to both electrically conductive and nonconductive contact surfaces. Using a combination of established fabrication techniques, electroadhesive elements are co-cured within a composite host structure during manufacture. This provides an almost symbiotic relationship between the electroadhesive and the composite structure, with the electroadhesive providing an additional functionality, whilst the epoxy matrix material of the composite acts as a dielectric for the high voltage electrodes of the device. Silicone rubber coated devices have been shown to offer high shear load (85kPa) capability for GFRP components held together using this technique. Through careful control of the connection interface, we consider the incorporation of these devices within complete composite structures for additional functionality. The ability to vary the internal connectivity of structural elements could allow for incremental changes in connectivity between discrete sub-structures, potentially introducing variable stiffness to the global structure.