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Analysis-Driven Design of Vascular Antennas Embedded in Multifunctional Composites



Research on structurally embedded microvascular systems in laminated structures continues to provide new insights into the areas of thermal transport and self-healing. At the same time, the number of studies considering uses of non-toxic liquid metal (LM) alloys for reconfigurable electronics is also increasing. This work benefits from these efforts and proposes a concept for a reconfigurable Structurally Embedded Vascular Antenna (SEVA). A set of fully coupled multi-physical engineering models of the driven antenna consider the electromagnetic, fluid, thermal, and mechanical responses. A full-wave electromagnetic model (frequency domain) is used to assess antenna Radio Frequency (RF) performance and compute dissipative heat generation (dielectric and resistive). The full field heat source data is then passed to a conjugate heat transfer model, which accounts for the thermal coupling between the solid composite and flowing fluid based on the LM pumping pressure. Finally, a representative volume element representing a local region of the highest temperature is used to compute mechanical knockdown ratios relative to a similar panel with no microvascular network. The entire modeling framework is implemented using a combination of COMSOL, Matlab, Abaqus FEA, and Python tools and libraries. It is shown that the increased resistive heating that results from the use of LM can be offset by the action of circulating the liquid metal such that heat is continuously removed from the system. A simulation process management framework is used to automate design of experiment (DOE) and multi-objective optimization studies. Because of the high computational cost associated with performing the multi-physical computational analysis, a surrogate model-based optimization approach is employed to explore the design space associated with this concept and to arrive at SEVA configurations that simultaneously maximize antenna effectiveness and structural strength.

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