Capacitance-based damage detection sensing for aerospace structural composites

P. Bahrami, N. Yamamoto, Y. Chen, H. Manohara

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Damage detection technology needs improvement for aerospace engineering application because detection within complex composite structures is difficult yet critical to avoid catastrophic failure. Damage detection is challenging in aerospace structures because not all the damage detection technology can cover the various defect types (delamination, fiber fracture, matrix crack etc.), or conditions (visibility, crack length size, etc.). These defect states are expected to become even more complex with future introduction of novel composites including nano-/microparticle reinforcement. Currently, non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods with X-ray, ultrasound, or eddy current have good resolutions (< 0.1 mm), but their detection capabilities is limited by defect locations and orientations and require massive inspection devices. System health monitoring (SHM) methods are often paired with NDE technologies to signal out sensed damage, but their data collection and analysis currently requires excessive wiring and complex signal analysis. Here, we present a capacitance sensor-based, structural defect detection technology with improved sensing capability. Thin dielectric polymer layer is integrated as part of the structure; the defect in the structure directly alters the sensing layer's capacitance, allowing full-coverage sensing capability independent of defect size, orientation or location. In this work, capacitance-based sensing capability was experimentally demonstrated with a 2D sensing layer consisting of a dielectric layer sandwiched by electrodes. These sensing layers were applied on substrate surfaces. Surface indentation damage (∼1mm diameter) and its location were detected through measured capacitance changes: 1 to 250 % depending on the substrates. The damage detection sensors are light weight, and they can be conformably coated and can be part of the composite structure. Therefore it is suitable for aerospace structures such as cryogenic tanks and rocket fairings for example. The sensors can also be operating in space and harsh environment such as high temperature and vacuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2014
ISBN (Print)9780819499875
StatePublished - 2014
EventSensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2014 - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 10 2014Mar 13 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherSensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Capacitance-based damage detection sensing for aerospace structural composites'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this