Development of polymer-based nanocomposites for underwater sound absorption

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Embargoed until 2023-09-14
Copyright: Fu, Yifeng
Underwater sound can have a detrimental effect on marine animals due to the ever-increasing noise levels in their pristine habitat. It has also been commonly used to detect underwater floating objects via a sonar system. To absorb unwanted underwater sound, polymers (e.g., rubber), which have similar impedance to that of water, are widely used for sound absorption in water. Nanocomposites have attracted considerable attention due to their ability to improve sound absorption properties of polymer-based sound absorption materials. This project aims to develop a thin-layer nanocomposite with high underwater sound absorption at low frequency and high pressure. A water-filled impedance tube, an essential facility to test new materials developed in this PhD thesis, was designed and constructed. The established research facility consists of four main components: a stainless steel tube and its supporting devices, a sound source (a projector) and its associated electronics, an underwater sound pressure measurement system, and a water pressurized system. Subsequent calibrations and measurements showed that the established apparatus could be used to measure the underwater sound absorption coefficient in a frequency range of 1500 Hz to 7000 Hz and under hydrostatic pressure in a range of 0 to 1.5 MPa. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) reinforced polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) nanocomposites were designed, fabricated, and tested. This development comprised of two stages. In the first stage, PDMS was selected as the material matrix, surfactant and carboxyl functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT-COOH) as inclusions, and a new nanocomposite, namely PSM (PDMS/surfactant/MWCNT-COOH), was then developed. Effects of the added surfactant and MWCNT-COOH on the mechanical properties, chemical properties, and morphology were investigated, which indicated the nanocomposite’s potential for sound absorption improvement. Underwater acoustic tests showed high underwater sound absorption coefficients (>0.8) in the most frequency range 1500 Hz to 7000 Hz. However, it was observed that a significant drop in the underwater sound absorption performance under high hydrostatic pressure. It was found that the high compression of PSM was the cause of poor performance under high hydrostatic pressure. In the second stage, a core-shell structure was designed to maintain the high sound absorption coefficient of PSM under high hydrostatic pressure. A novel structure of a 2-mm-thick hard shell with a 2-mm-thick soft layer was developed to encapsulate the PSM sample so that its deformation can be minimized and its superior sound absorption property was improved under high pressure. Experimental results on the water-filled impedance tube demonstrated that the new structure offered a promising solution to the demand for advanced underwater materials, which are thin and have high sound absorption performance under high hydrostatic pressures. In summary, this study has developed a polymer-based nanocomposite. Mechanical properties, chemical properties, morphology, and underwater acoustic properties of the nanocomposite have been studied. The nanocomposite is thinner than existing underwater acoustic materials and has excellent underwater sound absorption performance in the frequency range of 1.5 to 7 kHz and under atmospheric pressure. For applications in high hydrostatic pressure up to 1.5 MPa, the proposed new structure with a total thickness of 14 mm, in comparison to 50 mm or more thickness of other developed materials for marine applications, showed good sound absorption results and potentially addressing the on-going technical challenge of poor sound absorption performance of acoustic materials under high hydrostatic pressure.
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Fu, Yifeng
Guan, Yeoh
Zhongxiao, Peng
Chun, Wang
Jeoffrey, Fischer
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty