Development of an Integrated Sacrificial Sensor for Damage Detection and Monitoring in Composite Materials and Adhesively Bonded Joints

Geir Olafsson*, R.C. Tighe, Stephen W Boyd, Janice M Barton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Quality assurance of adhesively bonded joints is of vital importance if their benefits are to be exploited across a wide range of industrial applications. A novel lightweight, low-cost, non-invasive embedded sacrificial sensor is proposed, capable of detecting damage within an adhesively bonded joint, which could also be used in a laminated composite structure. The sensor operation uses changes in electrical resistance, increasing as the sensing material area diminishes with damage progression. Initial tests prove the sensor concept by showing that the electrical resistance of the sensor increases proportionally with material removal, mimicking the sensor operation. Thermography is used to verify the current flow through the sensor and that any localised heating caused by the sensor is minimal. Short beam interlaminar shear strength tests show that embedding sensors in a composite laminates did not cause a reduction in material interfacial structural performance. Finally, the in-situ performance of the sensor is demonstrated in quasi-static tensile tests to failure of adhesively bonded Single Lap Joints (SLJs) with sensors embedded in the bond line. Prior to crack initiation an electrical response occurs that correlates with increasing applied load, suggesting scope for secondary uses of the sensor for load monitoring and cycle counting. Crack initiation is accompanied by a rapid increase in electrical resistance, providing an indication of failure ahead of crack propagation and an opportunity for timely repair. As the crack damage propagated, the electrical response of the sensor increased proportionally. The effect of the sensor on the overall structural performance was assessed by comparing the failure load of joints with and without the embedded sensor with no measurable difference in ultimate strength. The research presented in the paper serves as an important first step in developing a simple yet promising new technology for structural health monitoring with numerous potential applications.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Early online date11 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Feb 2021


  • Non-Destructive Evaluation
  • Structural Health Monitoring
  • Integrated Sensor
  • Adhesively Bonded Joints

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