Structural health monitoring (SHM) is crucial for detecting sudden and progressive damage and for preventing
catastrophic structural failure. Piezoelectric materials have been widely adopted for their use as sensors and as actuators.
Piezoceramics (such as lead zirconate titanate) offer high piezoelectricity but are mechanically brittle. Poly(vinylidene
fluoride) (PVDF) piezopolymers are conformable to complex structural surfaces but exhibit lower piezoelectricity. So as
to achieve a combination of these desirable properties, piezoelectric zinc oxide (ZnO) nanomaterials are proposed for
embedment in flexible polymer matrices during fabrication to yield high-performance piezoelectric nanocomposites. The
main objective of this research is to characterize the piezoelectricity of nanocomposites formed by embedding ZnO
nanoparticles in a PVDF-trifluoroethylene (TrFE) matrix. Film fabrication is performed by dispersing ZnO into a PVDFTrFE
solution and then by spin coating the solution onto a rigid substrate. A high electric field is applied to each of the
films for poling, and the films' remnant polarization is quantified by measuring their ferroelectric response using a
Sawyer-Tower circuit. Graphs of electric field compared to electric displacement can be obtained for determining the
films' piezoelectricity. Finally, validation of their sensing performance is achieved by hammer impact testing.