In nature, both material and structure are formed according to the principles of biologically controlled self-assembly, a process defined as the spontaneous and reversible ordering of small molecular building blocks under the influence of non-covalent, static interactions. The orientation and distribution of reinforcing entities in engineering composites is key to enabling structural efficiency, yet the architecture remains simplistic when compared to the distinctive and unique hierarchies found in Nature. These biological ‘composite’ materials achieve such configurations by accurately controlling the orientation of anisotropic nano- and micro-sized ‘building blocks’, thereby reinforcing the material in specific directions to carry the multidirectional external loads at different length scales. Capturing the design principles underlying the exquisite architecture of such biological materials will overcome many of the mechanical limitations of current engineering composites. The scientific vision for this study is the development of a novel and highly ordered complex architecture fibrous material for additive layer manufacturing. Using novel chemistry and controlled field-effect assembly, functionally graded, stiffness modulated architectures, analogous to those found in nature, are synthesised to realise enhanced mechanical performance, multi-dimensional composite structures. To achieve this, both hierarchical discontinuous fibres (glass fibres with ZnO nanrods) and a new type of ultrasonic device has been developed. The two studies reported here have been successfully employed to manufacture and mechanically characterise the fibres and aligned discontinuous fibres. A 43 % improvement in strength was observed for samples tested parallel to the direction of the fibre reinforcement over those strained normal to the fibre direction, despite the relatively low volume percentage of the reinforcement phase. This technique shows great potential for the low cost instantaneous alignment of structural reinforcement to generate the light-weight high performance structures required for the future.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.