Engineers at the University of California at San Diego are investigating how carbon nanotubes could reinforce the resin matrix found in composite materials commonly used in the aerospace, defence, automotive and sporting goods industries.
The ultimate goal is to develop a custom-tailored nanoparticle to reinforce the resin matrix as well as develop a procedure to place these high-performance particles in critical stress regions.
The most widely-used type of composite materials consists of layers of carbon fibre fabric held together by a resin matrix. The matrix is the materials' weakest link - much weaker than the layers of fibers it binds.
When composite structures fail due to compression or shear loading, it's often because of this large discrepancy in strength between the fibers and the resin.
''Currently, UC San Diego is the only university that has investigated approaches that can be used in the high-volume automotive, civil, and sporting goods industry,'' said John Kosmatka, a professor of structural engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering.
The Composites and Aerospace Structures Laboratory has begun studying how the resin can be reinforced with nanotubes in conjunction with researchers from the UC San Diego Department of NanoEngineering.