Multiscale Modeling of Multifunctional Nanocomposites

The unique mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties of carbon nanotubes have led to significant interest in applying carbon nanotubes towards the design of multifunctional nanocomposites. These composites experimentally display unique macroscale properties often attributed to nanoscale effects, particularly, the effects at the interface of the nanotubes with the surrounding medium. In order to develop design tools for engineering materials with specially tailored performance through the optimal use of nanoparticles, it is necessary to establish validated multiscale models for assessing structure-property relationships in nanocomposites. The focus of the present research primarily concerns the theoretical development and computational implementation of multiscale models based on effective homogenization techniques for connecting atomistic simulations to continuum scale models in the determination of the coupled mechanical, thermal and electrical behavior of polymer-based nanocomposites.

Modeling of Progressive Damage in Nanocomposites

In addition to the potential applications of carbon nanotube-polymer nanocomposites for providing increased matrix stiffness, thermal conductivity, and electrical conductivity in structural carbon fiber composites, nanocomposites have the potential to provide vehicle critical information through structural health monitoring. This ability to sense the onset of damage stems both from the inherent electro-mechanical coupling of nanotubes and from changes in the electrical properties of nanocomposites brought about by progressive failure associated with the formation of microcracks. The present research is focused on the latter through the development of multiscale damage evolution models for capturing the progressive failure of nanocomposites under mechanical loading, and concurrently predicting the associated perturbations in the non-mechanical properties necessary to sense damage using a multiscale homogenization framework.