Carbon nanomaterials have gradually demonstrated their superiority for in-line process monitoring of high-performance composites. To explore the advantages of structures, properties, as well as sensing mechanisms, three types of carbon nanomaterials-based fiber sensors, namely, carbon nanotube-coated fibers, reduced graphene oxide-coated fibers, and carbon fibers, were produced and used as key sensing elements embedded in fabrics for monitoring the manufacturing process of fiber-reinforced polymeric composites. Detailed microstructural characterizations were performed through SEM and Raman analyses. The resistance change of the smart fabric was monitored in the real-time process of composite manufacturing. By systematically analyzing the piezoresistive performance, a three-stage sensing behavior has been achieved for registering resin infiltration, gelation, cross-linking, and post-curing. In the first stage, the incorporation of resin expands the packing structure of various sensing media and introduces different levels of increases in the resistance. In the second stage, the concomitant resin shrinkage dominates the resistance attenuation after reaching the maximum level. In the last stage, the diminished shrinkage effect competes with the disruption of the conducting network, resulting in continuous rising or depressing of the resistance.
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