Multifunctional composites are a new class of materials that combine structural and other functionalities such as sensing, actuation, energy harvesting and vibration control in order to maximize structural performance while minimizing weight and complexity. Among all the multifunctional composites developed so far, piezoelectric composites have been widely studied due to the high coupling of energy between the electrical and mechanical domains and the inherently high dielectric constant. Several piezoelectric fiber composites (PFCs) have been developed for sensing and actuation applications; however, none of the previously studied composites fully embed all components of an energy storage device as load bearing members of the structure. Recently, Lin and Sodano [1] developed a novel multifunctional fiber that can be embedded in a composite material to perform sensing and actuation, in addition to providing load bearing functionality. The design was achieved by coating a common structural fiber, silicon carbide, with a barium titanate piezoelectric shell, and poling the active material radically by employing the structural fiber as one of the electrodes. The silicon carbide core fiber also carries external mechanical loading to protect the brittle barium titanate shell from fracture. The excellent piezoelectric and dielectric properties of the barium titanate material make the novel active structural fiber an outstanding candidate for converting and storing ambient mechanical energy into electrical energy to power other electric devices in the system. This paper focuses on the characterization of energy storage capability of the multifunctional fiber provided by the dielectric properties of the barium titanate shell. The capacitances of the multifunctional fibers with four different aspect ratios are tested and compared with the theoretical expressions for the cylindrical capacitor while the break-down voltages of the multifunctional fibers are tested according to ASTM standard (ASTM D 149-97a). The stored energy is calculated from the testing results and the best aspect ratio for energy storage application can be determined. The resulting capacitive fiber is shown to have an energy density approximately two orders of magnitude higher than structural capacitors in the literature.

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