IACMI announces collaborative smart composite pressure vessel project

The goal of the collaboration is to develop structurally predictable, low-cost smart composite pressure vessels (SCPVs) with integrated health-monitoring.

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The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI, Knoxville, TN, US) announced on July 26 a project to develop Smart Composite Pressure Vessels (SCPV) with integrated health monitoring. The project is led by Steelhead Composites LLC (Golden, CO, US), with the project team including Teijin Carbon (Rockwood, TN, US), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, TN, US), and the University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN, US).

The goal of this technical collaboration is to develop structurally predictable, low-cost smart composite pressure vessels (SCPVs) without compromising safety by employing integrated, reliable health-monitoring. The project leverages smart fiber optic sensor technology, integrated and developed at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville by Professor Dayakar Penumadu to optimize carbon fiber translation and to then integrate this technology, enabling on-demand feedback on fatigue related performance. Steelhead Composites will utilize ORNL’s composite processing experience to optimize monitoring procedures in the vessel assembly. This validated technology can then be used to lower the cost of adopting composite pressure vessels in fuel cell cars and other applications in transportation markets.

Throughout this project, the integrated system will allow for continuous monitoring of the vessel’s health, maintain an ongoing record of cycle life characteristics, and provide immediate feedback on the vessel’s structure in response to any unplanned damage caused by either low or high energy impact. “Currently, CPV safety is measured with aerospace functions as the baseline application. The continuous and predictable health-monitoring  that will be developed through this project seeks to enhance operational safety and reduce the cost of these vessels in the automotive sector,” says Dr. Kaushik Mallick, director of Engineering at Steelhead Composites, LLC.

The ultimate goal of this project is to allow for higher confidence in the safety design factor of the vessels, thereby reducing the cost associated with these critical pressure-bearing composite structures. “Thorough validation of application-specific safety standards is necessary for broad adoption of CPVs in transportation markets,” says John A. Hopkins, CEO of the Composites Institute. “The IACMI members who are partners in this project have the experience and technical research capabilities to make help drive this adoption.” 

The method developed by this process will open new opportunities for the integration of structural health-monitoring systems into the carbon fiber compressed gas composites industry. Project outcomes can enable private industry to innovate the manufacturing process through effectively testing the materials and processes utilized in the development of composite pressure vessels in higher volume applications.

The Steelhead-led project is supported in part through IACMI state partners including the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (COEDIT, Denver, CO, US) and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (Nashville, TN, US). These state partners catalyze innovation by supporting IACMI and its members.

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