Electrically conductive composites made of polymers and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) may be used to detect environmental impacts. This is due to the fact that the CNT percolation network formed within the material reacts to changes in temperature, to deformation, or to contact with vapours or solvents showing changes in the electrical conductivity.
Scientists at the Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e. V.(IPF) succeeded in producing - via conventional melt processing - electrically conductive polymer-CNT composites which afterwards could be spun to fibres. Such fibres may be incorporated into larger textile structures. The resulting sensing textiles can be applied, e.g., in civil engineering whenever early leakage detection is required to avoid cost-intensive damage.
As the sensor function is integrated in the material and permanently active, space-resolved and real-time defect detection is possible even at inaccessible locations, e.g. at underground pipelines.
Dr. Petra Pötschke