Space-Filling Curve Resistor on Ultra-Thin Polyetherimide Foil for Strain Impervious Temperature Sensing
Monitoring process parameters in the manufacture of composite structures is key to ensuring product quality and safety. Ideally, this can be done by sensors that are embedded during production and can remain as devices to monitor structural health. Extremely thin foil-based sensors weaken the finished workpiece very little. Under ideal conditions, the foil substrate bonds with the resin in the autoclaving process, as is the case when polyetherimide is used. Here, we present a temperature sensor as part of an 8 µm thick multi-sensor node foil for monitoring processing conditions during the production and structural health during the lifetime of a construction. A metallic thin film conductor was shaped in the form of a space-filling curve to suppress the influences of resistance changes due to strain, which could otherwise interfere with the measurement of the temperature. FEM simulations as well as experiments confirm that this type of sensor is completely insensitive to the direction of strain and sufficiently insensitive to the amount of strain, so that mechanical strains that can occur in the composite curing process practically do not interfere with the temperature measurement. The temperature sensor is combined with a capacitive sensor for curing monitoring based on impedance measurement and a half-bridge strain gauge sensor element. All three types are made of the same materials and are manufactured together in one process flow. This is the key to cost-effective distributed sensor arrays that can be embedded during production and remain in the workpiece, thus ensuring not only the quality of the initial product but also the operational reliability during the service life of light-weight composite constructions.