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2nd August 2018, Knoxville, TN

Project to develop smart composite pressure vessels

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) – a 160+ member consortium committed to increasing domestic production capacity and manufacturing jobs across the USA – has launched a new project to develop smart composite pressure vessels (SCPVs) with integrated health monitoring.

The project is led by Steelhead Composites, along with Teijin, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT).

A 7.5 litre capacity composite overwrapped pressure vessel with Teijin carbon fibre. © IACMI

The goal is to develop structurally predictable, low-cost and smart SCPVs without compromising safety, by employing integrated, reliable health-monitoring. It will leverage smart fibre optic sensor technology, integrated and developed at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville by Professor Dayakar Penumadu to optimise carbon fibre translation and to then integrate this technology, enabling on-demand feedback on fatigue related performance.

Steelhead Composites will draw on ORNL’s composite processing experience to optimise monitoring procedures in the vessel assembly. This validated technology can then be used to lower the cost of adopting composite pressure vessels in fuel cell cars and other applications in transportation markets.

Throughout the project, the system will allow for continuous monitoring of the vessel’s health, maintain an ongoing record of cycle life characteristics and provide immediate feedback on the vessel’s structure in response to any unplanned damage caused by either low or high energy impact.

“Currently, CPV safety is measured with aerospace functions as the baseline application,” said Dr Kaushik Mallick, director of engineering at Steelhead Composites. “The continuous and predictable health monitoring that will be developed through this project seeks to enhance operational safety and reduce the cost of these vessels in the automotive sector.”

The ultimate goal is to allow for higher confidence in the safety design factor of the vessels, thereby reducing the cost associated with these critical pressure-bearing composite structures.

“Thorough validation of application-specific safety standards is necessary for broad adoption of CPVs in transportation markets,” said John A. Hopkins, CEO of the Composites Institute. “The IACMI members who are partners in this project have the experience and technical research capabilities to make help drive this adoption.”

The method developed by this process could open new opportunities for the integration of structural health-monitoring systems into the carbon fibre compressed gas composites industry. Project outcomes can enable private industry to innovate the manufacturing process through effectively testing the materials and processes utilized in the development of composite pressure vessels in higher volume applications.

 

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