This thesis investigates thermoforming of thin-ply thermoplastic composites via in-situ heating for in-space manufacturing applications. The proposed composite concept is based on combining conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) films and high-temperature thermoplastic matrix. The CNT film is made of randomly aligned carbon nanotubes, which possesses outstanding electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties. When combined with polymer matrix, it becomes a multifunctional composite structure. The thermoplastic chosen is polyether ether ketone (PEEK), which is a semicrystalline high-performance thermoplastic that has exceptional physical and mechanical properties at high temperatures. The composite structure studied is consists of a layer of CNT film sandwiched between two thin films of PEEK. The CNT acts as an in-situ conductive heater when a voltage difference is applied, and a mechanical reinforcement. The PEEK polymer impregnated with reinforcement fibers and CNT is capable of reforming by repeating the thermoforming process. The focus of this study is on developing and characterizing the manufacturing process suitable for in-space manufacturing, where CNT/PEEK can be treated as a composite prepreg capable of being reformed into different shapes on demand via thermoforming. The thermoforming of thin-ply composite structures is achieved solely via in-situ electrical heating.
Bachelor Science in Aerospace Engineering (B.S.A.E.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Bijelic, Bojan, "Thermoforming of Thin-Ply Composite Structures via In-Situ Heating" (2022). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 1287.