There are many doors that nanotechnology has opened in the world of science, and now, a team of researchers at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT has unlocked one more secret using this fantastic technology. According to results from recent research, the team has found that nanotechnology can be used to identify cracks inside composite materials. This is wonderful news to the construction industry because composite materials are being used more than ever today in building a wide variety of structures, from large ones like aircraft and bridges to smaller things like blades used in wind turbines.
The downside of composite materials is that they don’t show damage (cracks in the material) on the outside like traditional materials do. So it’s hard to locate any internal damage when using these materials. Up until now, infrared thermography, a method that involves using heat-sensitive cameras, was used to locate the presence or confirm the absence of any internal cracks. This method is not very convenient because it requires the use of large and unwieldy heaters. And with safety being imperative in many constructs that use composite building materials, it’s only fitting to say that nanotechnology has stepped in to save the day.
The team at MIT has devised a way to include the detection mechanism into the composite material – carbon nanotubes that conduct electricity are aligned into the material in such a way that it is possible to detect signs of damage by applying a small electric current to it and then monitor it for signs of greater heat by using thermographic goggles or thermographic cameras. Any area that shows increased resistance can then be checked for potential damage and repaired accordingly, thus boosting the safety factor of composite materials.
This solution is deceptively simple, yet it is possible because of the minute scale which nanotechnology alone makes possible.
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