This work proposes nanocomposites with carbon nanotubes characterized by self-sensing and self-heating properties. Recently, a growing interest in these two properties has been found in many industrial sectors, especially in the aerospace and automotive fields. While the self-sensing function allows diagnosing the presence of micro-damage in the material thanks to the detection of residual resistance, the self-heating function is exploited to properly tune the heating performance in terms of the heating rate and final temperature values. An electrical percolation value of around 0.5% by weight of carbon nanotubes was found by electrical characterization. The AC conductivity of the nanocomposites, in the range of 100 Hz to 1 MHz, evidences that beyond a CNTs amount of 0.5% wt/wt, they are characterized by a purely resistive behavior. The self-sensing analysis displayed a gauge factor value of 4.1. The solid thermal stability up to 300 °C makes the material suitable as a heating element at high temperatures. SEM investigations and temperature maps evidence a good dispersion of the conductive filler in the epoxy matrix and, consequently, good isotropy in heat distribution. As regards the trend of electrical resistance by varying the temperature, the electro-thermal investigation has shown the presence of both Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) and Negative Temperature Coefficient (NTC) behaviors with a predominance of NTC as soon as the temperature becomes closer to the glass transition temperature of the epoxy resin.
Keywords: carbon nanotubes; electrical properties; self-heating; self-sensing; thermosetting resin.