Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Olesya I. Zhupanska

Second Advisor

Jia Lu


In the current thesis, the 4-probe electrical resistance of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites is utilized as a metric for sensing low-velocity impact damage. A robust method has been developed for recovering the directionally dependent electrical resistivities using an experimental line-type 4-probe resistance method. Next, the concept of effective conducting thickness was uniquely applied in the development of a brand new point-type 4-probe method for applications with electrically anisotropic materials. An extensive experimental study was completed to characterize the 4-probe electrical resistance of CFRP specimens using both the traditional line-type and new point-type methods. Leveraging the concept of effective conducting thickness, a novel method was developed for building 4-probe electrical finite element (FE) models in COMSOL. The electrical models were validated against experimental resistance measurements and the FE models demonstrated predictive capabilities when applied to CFRP specimens with varying thickness and layup. These new models demonstrated a significant improvement in accuracy compared to previous literature and could provide a framework for future advancements in FE modeling of electrically anisotropic materials. FE models were then developed in ABAQUS for evaluating the influence of prescribed localized damage on the 4-probe resistance. Experimental data was compiled on the impact response of various CFRP laminates, and was used in the development of quasi- static FE models for predicting presence of impact-induced delamination.

The simulation-based delamination predictions were then integrated into the electrical FE models for the purpose of studying the influence of realistic damage patterns on electrical resistance. When the size of the delamination damage was moderate compared to the electrode spacing, the electrical resistance increased by less than 1% due to the delamination damage. However, for a specimen with large delamination extending beyond the electrode locations, the oblique resistance increased by 30%. This result suggests that for damage sensing applications, the spacing of electrodes relative to the size of the delamination is important. Finally CT image data was used to model 3-D void distributions and the electrical response of such specimens were compared to models with no voids. As the void content increased, the electrical resistance increased non-linearly. The relationship between void content and electrical resistance was attributed to a combination of three factors: (i) size and shape, (ii) orientation, and (iii) distribution of voids. As a whole, the current thesis provides a comprehensive framework for developing predictive, resistance-based damage sensing models for CFRP laminates of various layup and thickness.


Carbon Fiber, Damage Sensing, Electrical Properties, Low Velocity Impact


xviii, 196 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 192-196).


Copyright © 2017 Robert James Hart