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shimbrot says that all the work, whether the epoxy electrical conductivity or voltage spikes, is predicated on finding a cnt/epoxy that is sufficiently flexible, tough and piezoresistive. but that is a challenge in itself.
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when cnts are dispersed in a matrix, they disrupt the matrix and stretch it. that induces a greater electrical resistance than otherwise expected, the team has found. in a study to be published in the february issue of composites science and technology, the team has found that mechanical load induces a voltage spike in the composite. the team has also found that the voltage spike is associated with the response of an electric circuit to mechanical load.
the voltage spikes are such that the electrical current that is flowing from the cnts to the epoxy decreases the further the cnts get from the epoxy, says shinbrot. this reflects the composite as a resistor. a reduction in resistance is what is expected when materials are compressed.
shinbrot and his colleagues used a cloud chamber to simulate a dust storm. using a vacuum cleaner to evacuate the chamber, they first charged the particles of dust with electricity. then they introduced a cloud of the dust particles into the chamber and exposed them to a strong electrical field. the researchers then measured the electric charge of the dust as it was charged and the charge distribution within the cloud. the researchers were surprised to find that the dust particles charged with high levels of electricity, but that these charges were distributed randomly within the cloud and not in a uniform fashion.