Composite materials are increasingly used in aerospace applications, owing to their high strength-to-mass ratio. Such materials are nevertheless vulnerable to impact damage. It is therefore important to investigate the effects of impacts on composites. Here we embed specialty microstructured optical fiber Bragg grating based sensors inside a carbon fiber reinforced polymer, providing access to the 3D strain evolution within the composite during impact. We measured a maximum strain of -655 με along the direction of impact, and substantially lower values in the two in-plane directions. Such in-situ characterization can trigger insight in the development of impact damage in composites.
This paper demonstrates that epoxy-based single mode polymer waveguides with Bragg gratings can be realized in very thin (down to 50 micron) polymer foils which are suitable for strain sensing when integrated inside glass fiber reinforced polymer composite materials. The single mode waveguides were fabricated using laser direct-write lithography and the gratings were realized using nanoimprint lithography. These steps were performed on a temporary rigid carrier substrate and afterwards the functional layers were released yielding the thin, flexible sensor foils which can be laser-cut to the required dimensions. The Bragg grating-based polymer waveguide sensor foils were characterized before and after embedding into the composite. As expected, there was a blue shift in the reflection spectrum because of residual strain due to the embedding process. However, the quality of the signal did not degrade after embedding, both for 50 and 100 micron thick sensor foils. Finally, the sensitivity to strain of the embedded sensors was determined using a tensile test and found to be about 1 pm / microstrain.
Composite materials are extensively used in a wide array of application markets by virtue of their strength, stiffness and lightness. Many composite structures are replaced today not only after failure but also before, for precautionary reasons. Adding optical sensing intelligence to these structures not only prolongs their lifetime but also significantly reduces the use of raw materials and energy. The use of optical based sensors offer numerous advantages i.e. integrability, high sensitivity, compactness and electromagnetic immunity. Most sensors integrated in composites are based on silica fibers with Bragg gratings. However, polymers are an interesting alternative because they present several advantages. They have high values in the opticalconstants involved in sensing, are cost-effective and allow larger elongations than silica. Moreover, planar optical waveguides represent an interesting approach to be further integrated e.g. in circuits. We present a comparison between Ormocer®-based and epoxy-based polymer waveguide Bragg grating sensors. Both polymers were screened for their compatibility with composite production processes and for their sensitivity to measure temperature and stress. Ormocer®-based sensors were found to exhibit a very high sensitivity (-250 pm/°C) for temperature sensing, while the epoxy-based sensors, although less sensitive (-90 pm/°C) were more compatible with the epoxy-based composite production process. In terms of sensitivity to measure stress, both materials were found to be analogous with measured values of (2.98 pm/μepsilon) for the epoxy-based and (3.00 pm/μepsilon) for Ormocer®-based sensors.