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Self-Healing of Woven Composite Laminates via In Situ Thermal Remending



Fiber-reinforced polymer composites are attractive structural materials due to their high specific strength/stiffness and excellent corrosion resistance. However, the lack of through-thickness reinforcement in laminated composites creates inherent susceptibility to fiber-matrix debonding, i.e., interlaminar delamination. This internal damage mode has proven difficult to detect and nearly impossible to repair via conventional methods, and therefore, remains a significant factor limiting the reliability of composite laminates in lightweight structures. Thus, novel approaches for mitigation (e.g., self-healing) of this incessant damage mode are of tremendous interest. Self-healing strategies involving sequestration of reactive liquids, i.e. microcapsule and microvascular systems, show promise for the extending service- life of laminated composites. However, limited heal cycles, long reaction times (hours/days), and variable stability of chemical agents under changing environmental conditions remain formidable research challenges. Intrinsic self- healing approaches that utilize reversible bonds in the host material circumvent many of these limitations and offer the potential for unlimited heal cycles. Here we detail the development of an intrinsic self-healing woven composite laminate based on thermally-induced dynamic bond re-association of 3D-printed polymer interlayers. In contrast to prior work, self-repair of the laminate occurs in situ and below the glass-transition temperature of the epoxy matrix, and maintains >85% of the elastic modulus during healing. This new platform has been deployed in both glass and carbon-fiber composites, demonstrating application versatility. Remarkably, up to 20 rapid (minute-scale) self-healing cycles have been achieved with healing efficiencies hovering 100% of the interlayer toughened (4-5x) composite laminate. This latest self-healing advancement exhibits unprecedented potential for perpetual in-service repair along with material multi-functionality (e.g., deicing ability) to meet modern application demands.


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