The objective of the proposed program is to develop lightweight and highly elastic electrically conducting interconnects and strain sensor arrays for next generation adaptive aerospace vehicles and structures. The systems-level problem this would solve is the inability of currently available materials to undergo the large strains and displacements associated with shape changes of morphing structures. NanoSonic will demonstrate the feasibility of the Metal RubberTM family of freestanding nanocomposite materials to serve as 1) electrically conductive, low modulus electrodes for large displacement mechanical actuators required to affect large shape changes, and 2) an integrated network of strain sensors to allow mapping of strain and determination of shape in adaptive structural components. Metal RubberTM
is fabricated via layer-by-layer, molecular self-assembly, which enables thickness and placement control over multiple molecular constituents for true nanostructured multifunctionality. As an electrode material, new, ultra-low modulus Metal RubberTM
can be strained to 1000% elongation while remaining electrically conductive; it returns to its original shape and nominal conductivity when released. As a strain sensor, strains up to 1000% have been measured in very highly flexible structures. During Phase I the feasibility of using such electrodes and strain sensors would be demonstrated in cooperation with a large aerospace company.