The proposal is entitled: “CAREER: Nanoengineered Sensing Skins for Structural Health Monitoring – An Integrated Research and Education Career Experience”. The CAREER Award recognizes junior faculty for their pioneering work at the interface of research and education. Professor Lynch joins several Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty who have also received this prestigious award.
Structural health monitoring (SHM) systems offer cost-effective health management solutions for aging civil infrastructure systems. Current SHM systems are characterized by the use of sensors that measure behavior at a specific point in the system. In contrast, this proposal explores the creation of a distributed sensing skin that provides direct spatial mapping of damage. The sensor paradigm proposed is inspired by the human dermatological system which offers distributed, multimodal sensing of the environment. Controlled molecular assembly employing carbon nanotubes and polyelectrolytes yields a homogenous multi-layered thin film in which four sensing modalities are simultaneously embedded: strain, pH, humidity and ionic uptake. To measure the spatial distribution of conductivity changes corresponding to each stimulus, electrical impedance tomography is adopted. Smart structure technology can also serve as an exciting backdrop for teaching math and science to middle-school students. To address the lack of diversity in engineering and to develop an awareness of the engineering profession in young underrepresented students, a middle-school outreach program is proposed for inner-city Detroit. Hands-on learning modules that explore the scientific principles behind the operation of sensors and the formation of damage in structures will be created. In addition, a professional short-course on smart structure technology will be created to recruit professional engineers to serve as outreach mentors.