A coatable, light-weight, fast-response nanocomposite sensor for the in situ acquisition of dynamic elastic disturbance: From structural vibration to ultrasonic waves

Zhihui Zeng, Menglong Liu, Hao Xu, Weijian Liu, Yaozhong Liao, Hao Jin, Li Min Zhou, Zhong Zhang, Zhongqing Su

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


� 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd. Inspired by an innovative sensing philosophy, a light-weight nanocomposite sensor made of a hybrid of carbon black (CB)/polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) has been developed. The nanoscalar architecture and percolation characteristics of the hybrid were optimized in order to fulfil the in situ acquisition of dynamic elastic disturbance from low-frequency vibration to high-frequency ultrasonic waves. Dynamic particulate motion induced by elastic disturbance modulates the infrastructure of the CB conductive network in the sensor, with the introduction of the tunneling effect, leading to dynamic alteration in the piezoresistivity measured by the sensor. Electrical analysis, morphological characterization, and static/dynamic electromechanical response interrogation were implemented to advance our insight into the sensing mechanism of the sensor, and meanwhile facilitate understanding of the optimal percolation threshold. At the optimal threshold (∼6.5 wt%), the sensor exhibits high fidelity, a fast response, and high sensitivity to ultrafast elastic disturbance (in an ultrasonic regime up to 400 kHz), yet with an ultralow magnitude (on the order of micrometers). The performance of the sensor was evaluated against a conventional strain gauge and piezoelectric transducer, showing excellent coincidence, yet a much greater gauge factor and frequency-independent piezoresistive behavior. Coatable on a structure and deployable in a large quantity to form a dense sensor network, this nanocomposite sensor has blazed a trail for implementing in situ sensing for vibration- or ultrasonic-wave-based structural health monitoring, by striking a compromise between 'sensing cost' and 'sensing effectiveness'.
Original languageEnglish
Article number065005
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


  • guided ultrasonic waves
  • nanocomposite sensor
  • structural health monitoring
  • vibration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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