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The objective of this project is the develop of tools to measure the fundamental structure-processing and structure -property relations associated with sustainable polymer composites. This will be accomplished by using interface characterization methods such as Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), NMR and Raman spectroscopy to quantify the effects of the complex interactions and high degree of chemical functionality characteristic of the interface of these materials. These methods will be coupled with mechanical property measurements to characterize the effect of mechanical degradation, ageing, and hydro-thermal effects on interface structure and integrity in sustainable/conventional composite blends and bio-based polymer nanocomposites. 

Successful development of these measurement tools will enable a broad spectrum of US industries (infrastructure, aerospace, transportation, alternative energy, automotive, electronics, military, sports and biotechnology) to compete in sustainable composite, biopolymer and nanomaterials markets or apply the products of these markets, enabling them to reach their strategic sustainability goals. This will be engender  buy supplying industrial R&D with new measurement tools to characterize composite materials, and by providing the manufacturing environment with NDE tools for evaluation of composites for monitoring product quality, service-life and repair of sustainable composites.


The composites project develops the fundamental measurement science necessary for the rational design of tough, durable and damage tolerant composites. This includes efforts to quantify the effects of fiber and resin interface chemistry on composite properties using single and multi fiber fragmentation testing. The project also develops modeling tools, which span multiple time and length scales, and feed into engineering design models. In addition, the project applies advanced microwave spectroscopy and florescence microscopy techniques to composites to reveal molecular level composite properties which control real-scale performance properties. Biobased nanocomposite concepts are also explored to leverage the impressive properties found in natural composites.

Image of self assembly of biobased nanocomposite
Self assembly of biobased nanocomposite 
Fluorescence life-time image of damage
Fluorescence life-time image of damage
Fluorescence of water on cellulose nanocrystals  in epoxy
Fluorescence of water on CNCs in epoxy
Simulation of epoxy chain dynamics
Simulation of epoxy chain dynamics
Fluorescence life-time image of resin domains
Fluorescence life-time image of resin domains

Testimony Before Congress

On April 8, 2018, Joannie Chin, deputy director of NIST's Engineering Lab, testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology on "Composite Materials – Strengthening Infrastructure Development," along with witnesses from academia and industry. The testimony contains background on NIST's deep expertise in composite measurement science and describes our roadmapping efforts in collaboration with members of industry, academia, and departments of transportation at federal and state levels. 

Created April 21, 2011, Updated June 3, 2020