Detection and measurement of impacts in composite structures using a self-powered triboelectric sensor

Cristobal Garcia, Irina Trendafilova, Jose Sanchez de Rio

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Composite structures as e.g. aircrafts, wind turbines or racing cars are frequently subjected to numerous impacts. For example, aircrafts may collide with birds during take-off and landing or get damaged due to the impact of hailstones. These impacts harm the integrity of the composite laminates used in their structures which results in delamination and other failures which are usually very difficult to detect by visual inspections. Hence, the detection and quantification of impacts is of vital importance for monitoring the health state of composite structures. Recently, triboelectric sensors have been demonstrated to detect touches, pressures, vibrations and other mechanical motions with the advantages of being self-powered, maintenance-free and easy to fabricate. However, there is no research focusing on the potential of triboelectric sensors to detect impacts in a wide energy range. In this paper, a self-powered triboelectric sensor is developed to measure impacts at high energy in structures made of composite materials. This could be particularly beneficial for the detection of bird strikes, hailstones and other high energy impacts in aircraft composite structures. For that purpose, composite plates are subjected to various energy impacts using a drop weight impact machine and the electric responses provided by the developed triboelectric sensor are measured in terms of voltage and current. The idea is to evaluate the sensitivity of the electrical signals provided by the sensor to changes in the impact energy. The results prove that the generated electric responses are affected by the energy of the impact and their amplitude increases linearly with the impact energy. The voltage and current sensor responses demonstrate a very good impact sensitivity of 160 mV/J and a strong linear relationship to the impact energy (R = 0.999) in a wide energy range from 2 to 30 J. This work suggests a novel approach to measure the magnitude of the impacts in composite structures using the newly developed triboelectric sensor. The findings of this work demonstrate that the developed triboelectric sensor meets the urgent needs for monitoring high energy impacts for aeronautic and civil composite structures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-453
Number of pages11
JournalNano Energy
Early online date26 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


  • triboelectric sensor
  • self powered systems
  • impact monitoring
  • electrospinning
  • nanofibers


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