Carbon fiber laminated thermoset composites have become the industry standard for applications dictating a high strength-to-weight ratio. However, the brittle nature of the carbon fiber composite structure limits its energy dissipation characteristics, often leading to catastrophic failure under low energy impact loadings. This research examines the potential effects of including vertically aligned multi-walled carbon nanotube forests within a layered laminate structure with the goal being to increase the energy dissipation of the structure with attention given to the increase in the aerial density as a result of including the insert. These nanotube forests are of interest due to their broader application in coupled scenarios requiring tenability of structural, thermal and electrical properties. These nanotube forests have unique energy dissipative effects due to their hierarchical architecture (see e.g., Dario et al. (2006), Zeng et al. (2010) and Raney et al. (2011)). We synthesize vertically aligned nanotubes (VACNTs) on a single crystalline silicon wafer. After separation with the wafer, the VACNTs are placed within a carbon fiber laminated structure prior to resin infusion using vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM). Drop tower tests similar to ASTM D7136 are performed on carbon fiber laminates, carbon fiber laminates with nanotube forests, and carbon fiber laminates with several alternative materials. Results show an improved damage tolerance of the laminate with each of the investigated inserts, with the CNT system showing an increase of 13% in mean peak force. These results show a similar improvement to the alternative inserts while maintaining the potential for their broader application as a multifunctional material.

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