Scientific Reports 10, 16833 (2020)
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) embedded polymers are of increasing interest to scientific and industrial communities for multi-functional applications. In this article, CNTs have been introduced to high-strength epoxy adhesive for enabling in-situ strain sensing in adhesively bonded aluminium-to-aluminium single-lap joints to accurately indicate the onset and propagation of adhesion failure to the evolution of piezo-resistivity in varying mechanical loads. The CNT modified adhesive in bonded joints and the CNT modified adhesive alone have been tested under monothonic and cyclic tensile loads up to ultimate failure. The changes in the piezo-resistivity induced by the CNTs have been monitored in situ with respect to loading. A novel interpretation method has been developed for progressive, instantaneous adhesion failure estimation under cyclic tensile stresses from a resistivity baseline. The method indicates that the in-situ resistivity changes and the rate of the changes with strain, i.e. sensitivity, strongly correlate with the adhesion failure progression, irrespective of the CNT dispersion quality. Moreover, the effect of bond thickness on the evolution of piezo-resistivity and adhesion failure have been studied. It was observed that relatively thin adhesive bonds (0.18 mm thickness), possessing higher CNT contact points than thick bonds (0.43 mm thickness), provide 100 times higher sensitivity to varying cyclic loads.