Monitoring of composite structures using a network of integrated PVDF film transducers
Aiming to reduce costs, polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) film patches are an emerging alternative to more classic piezoelectric technologies, like ceramic patches, as transducers to measure local deformation in many structural applications. This choice is supported by advantages such as the low weight and mechanical flexibility of PVDF, making this polymer suitable for embedding inside full scale polymer based composite structures. Piezoelectric transducer patches can be used as actuators to dynamically excite full-scale composite structures, and as sensors to measure the strain. The main objective of this paper is to verify that the PVDF transducers can provide exploitable signals in the context of structural health monitoring. In order to do so, two aspects of the design of transducer network are investigated: the optimization of the sensor network, for which the effective independence method is proposed, and the use of operational modal analysis (OMA), since it is a simple method to extract the natural frequencies of a structure from a time series. The results of the analysis are compared to a reference set issued from experimental modal analysis (EMA), a simple, well-known, classic method, which is carried out using accelerometers and an impact hammer. By statistical means, it is shown that there is no significant difference between the two methods, and an optimized PVDF transducer network combined with OMA can perform the dynamic analysis of a structure as well as a classic EMA setup would do. This leads the way to the use of low-cost PVDF embedded transducer networks for robust composite material characterization.