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This paper utilizes a periodic unit cell modeling technique combined with finite element analysis (FEA) to predict and understand the mechanical behaviors of a nanotechnology-enhanced carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) composite. This research specifically focuses on the study of novel Z-threaded CFRPs (ZT-CFRPs) that are reinforced not only by unidirectional carbon fibers but also with numerous carbon nanofibers (CNFs) threading through the CFRP laminate in the z-direction (i.e., through-thickness direction). The complex multi-scaled orthogonally-structured carbon reinforced polymer composite is modeled starting from a periodic unit cell, which is the smallest periodic building-block representation of the material. The ZT-CFRP unit cell includes three major components, i.e., carbon fibers, polymer matrix, and carbon nanofiber Z-threads. To compare the mechanical behavior of ZT-CFRPs against unmodified, control CFRPs, an additional unit cell without CNF reinforcement was also created and analyzed. The unit cells were then meshed into finite element models and subjected to different loading conditions to predict the interaction among all their components. The elastic moduli of both unit-cells in the z-direction were calculated from the FEA data. By assuming the CNFs have the same mechanical properties of T-300 carbon fiber, the numerical modeling showed that the ZT-CFRPs exhibited a 14% improvement in z-directional elastic modulus due to the inclusion of 1 wt% CNF z-threads, indicating that ZT-CFRPs are stiffer compared to control CFRPs consisting of T-300 carbon fibers and epoxy.  more » « less
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International SAMPE Symposium and Exhibition
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National Science Foundation
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  1. This study experimentally and analytically examined the influence of carbon nanofiber (CNF) z-threads on the through-thickness (i.e., z-direction) thermal conductivity of unidirectional carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs). It was hypothesized that a network of CNF z-threads within CFRPs would provide a thermally conductive microstructure throughout the sample thickness that would increase the through-thickness thermal conductivity. The experiments showed that the through-thickness thermal conductivity of the CNF z-threaded CFRPs (9.85 W/m-K) was approximately 7.53 times greater than that of the control CFRPs (1.31 W/m-K) and 2.73 times greater than that of the unaligned CNF-modified CFRPs (3.61 W/m-K). Accordingly, the CNF z-threads were found to play a substantial role in increasing the through-thickness thermal conductivity of CFRPs. To better understand the role of the CNF z-threads in through-thickness thermal transport, simple logical models of the CFRPs were constructed and then compared with the experimental results. Through these analyses, it was determined that CNF z-threads substantially enhance the through-thickness thermal conductivity by creating carbon fiber-CNF linkages throughout the CFRP laminate; these linkages allow the heat flow to largely bypass the resistive resin that envelops the carbon fibers. In addition, thermal infrared tests illustrated that the increased through-thickness thermal conductivity of the CNF z-threaded CFRP enabled the location and visualization of defects within the laminate, which was not possible with the control CFRP. 
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  2. In this study, unidirectional carbon fiber prepregs that contain long carbon nanofiber (CNF) z threads as a through-thickness (z-directional) reinforcement were manufactured. The CNF z threads are long enough to thread through multiple carbon fiber (CF) arrays, which creates a multi-scale CNF/CF/resin-composite. The CNF z-threaded prepregs were manufactured using an electric-field aligned flow-transferring process. It was hypothesized that the CNF z-threads with the zig-zag threading pattern reinforces the interlaminar and intralaminar regions of the CFRP laminate thus improve the compressive strength by reducing the chance of carbon fiber buckling. Compressive testing was performed per modified version of ASTM D695 (i.e., SACMA SRM 1R 94) to evaluate the compressive strength of the CNF z-threaded CFRP (ZT-CFRP) laminates. The samples were manufactured using AS4 carbon fibers, EPON 862/Epikure-W resin and a 1wt% CNF content. ZT-CFRP testing results were compared with unaligned CNF-modified CFRP (UA-CFRP) and unmodified CFRP samples to investigate the impact of the CNF z-threads on the compressive strength. Results showed an increase of ~15% for the compressive strength of ZT CFRPs, whereas the UA-CFRPs experienced a decrease of ~8% when compared to unmodified CFRPs. It was concluded that CNF/carbon fiber interlocking stops and delays crack growth, and helps to stabilize carbon fibers from further buckling. 
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