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Ceramic Sensors Read Bridge Strain

Thursday, February 7, 2019

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Researchers based out of Rice University (Houston) recently developed a ceramic sensor that may help to monitor the health of structures like buildings and bridges due to a change in conductivity under different kinds of strain.

According to the university, the electrical disparity between elastic and plastic strain wasn’t obvious until the research team modeled graphene-boron-nitride, a 2D compound.

Ceramic Sensors

In terms of elastic strain, when material is stretched, similar to a rubber band, the internal structure is not changed. If the same material were put under plastic strain, pushing it beyond elasticity, the crystalline lattice becomes distorted. In either circumstance, GBN demonstrates different electrical properties, demonstrating promise as a sensor.

Researcher Rouzbeh Shahsavari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University, had previously found that hexagonal-boron nitride, also known as white graphene, could improve the properties of ceramics by making them stronger and more versatile, with “surprising electrical properties.”

Rice University

The way the 2D carbon-based graphene and white graphene bond together in different ways is what makes them unique—by themselves, graphene and white graphene avoid water, resulting in clumping, but the combined nanosheets disperse in a slurry when the ceramic is manufactured. These special ceramics could become tunable semiconductors with improved strength, elasticity and ductility.

The way the 2D carbon-based graphene and white graphene bond together in different ways is what makes them unique—by themselves, graphene and white graphene avoid water, resulting in clumping, but the combined nanosheets disperse in a slurry when the ceramic is manufactured. These special ceramics could become tunable semiconductors with improved strength, elasticity and ductility.

Graphene Properties

According to the university, graphene is known for its lack of a band gap, a region that an electron has to jump to make a material conductive. Graphene without a band gap is a metallic conductor; white graphene, with a wide band gap, acts as an insulator. When there is a higher ration of graphene in the 2D compound, there is a higher rate of conductivity.

“Mixed into the ceramic in a high enough concentration, the 2D compound dubbed GBN would form a network as conductive as the amount of carbon in the matrix allows,” the university writes. “That gives the overall composite a tunable band gap that could lend itself to a variety of electrical applications.”

In its work, the research team used density functional theory calculations to model different types of the 2D compound mixed with tobermorite, which is commonly used as cement for concrete.

“Fusing 2D materials like graphene and boron nitride in ceramics and cements enables new compositions and properties we can’t achieve with either graphene or boron nitride by themselves,” Shahsavari said.

The study, led by Shahsavari and Asghar Habibnejad Korayem, an assistant professor of structural engineering at Iran University of Science and Technology and a research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, was published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Quality control; Research and development

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