Results of the team's study show that the greatest electrical conductivity occurs when the carbon nanotubes are not perfectly aligned, but only partially aligned. In addition, a higher conductivity at, or close to, the percolation threshold can be achieved with the presence of agglomerated carbon nanotubes. However, this also limits the amount of increase in the electrical conductivity of the nanocomposite with increased fractions of carbon nanotubes.
Other work on multifunctional nanocomposites for use in primary aircraft structures is underway at the University of Houston, Virginia Tech, MIT, and the University of Central Florida, among others.
Standards for repair and maintenance of commercial aircraft have to date been based on the performance of metal-based planes, where damage is easier to identify. Techniques for repairing the metal portions of aircraft are well known and well established. But that's not at all the case with the composite materials used increasingly for primary structures such as wings and fuselage. Impact damage, for example, can be difficult to detect since it's less visible, and repair practices are not yet established for the multiple materials and repair techniques associated with them.