Composites are very popular materials for all kind of structures, such as windmills or airplanes, as
a result of its exceptionally strong properties. However, even the strongest material is not eternal
and we would prefer to detect damage before the material actually fails and causes a safety
hazard. To monitor the health of these composite materials, we propose a novel sensor made of
very tiny crystals, or nanocrystals, of manganese containing zinc sulfide. This material has a very
special property which allows previously stored energy to be released as a light signal when it
endures pressure, called mechanoluminescence.
The first goal is to synthesize ZnS:Mn nanocrystals, by means of existing methods as well as a
novel method, allowing us to have full control over several important material characteristics, such
as full yield and size. In the following two steps, we are investigating the optical properties and
changing the size and composition to maximize its pressure to light response. Also, we engineer
the outer layer of these tiny crystals to make them highly compatible with the composite materials
in which we want to embed them. Finally, we investigate the response of these nanocrystals in
their newly composite host structure on several stress and strain induced deformations.