Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Associate Professor of Motorsports Engineering; Director of Advanced Composite Structures Engineering Laboratory (ACSEL)
Mechanical Engineering, Motorsports Engineering, INDI
Manufacturing of Lighter, Durable Prepreg Composites via Interlaminar Incorporation of CNT/Epoxy Nanoscaffolds using Genetic Algorithm Assisted Machine Learning and Neural Networks
Fiber reinforced polymer composites have revolutionized the design and manufacturing of aircrafts, watercrafts, land vehicles, turbines, sporting goods, and more: many designs that once relied exclusively on metals now use fiber reinforced polymers. Most composite structures are comprised of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) prepreg layers, which results in light structural parts that satisfy mechanical strength requirements, stability and safety standards. However, without a breakthrough, it will be difficult to further advance component production efficiencies and continue to improve safety, performance and cost, while also reducing weight. While CFRP prepregs demonstrate outstanding in-plane mechanical properties, they display poor through-thickness properties. Among CFRP prepreg interlaminar enhancement techniques, use of nanocomposites has recently attracted great attention because of their superior mechanical properties coupled with ultra-compact foot-prints. However, high cost, difficulties in large batch production and poor compatibility with existing CFRP prepreg resin systems have limited their practical applications. In this NSF STTR Phase I project, this limitation is overcome through interlayer electrospinning of carbon nanotube (CNT)/epoxy nanoscaffolds. This method achieves multiscale improved prepreg interlayer bonding using extremely low amounts of nanocomposites of CNTs incorporated into prepreg resin (epoxy). These electrospun nanoscaffolds are designed and optimized via genetic algorithm assisted machine learning (GAML) and artificial neural networks (ANN) to accelerate the discovery and development of novel composites for further lightweighting.