Carbon nanotube yarns have extraordinary mechanical, electrical and thermal properties that make them attractive for high-performance and multifunctional composite materials. They also exhibit a unique piezoresistive response when subjected to mechanical strain. This characteristic is of interest for sensing applications including strain measurement and damage detection when integrated in polymeric and composite materials. Thus, there is a need to understand the coupled mechanical and electrical behavior of the carbon nanotube yarns to fully comprehend the entire scope of their sensing applications. Of particular interest are their characteristics when used as piezoresistive strain sensors in structures that are subjected to dynamic loading including fatigue and impact, or quasi-static cyclic loading. This paper presents a study about the presence of hysteresis and other time-dependent effects in carbon nanotube yarns during quasi-static cyclic uniaxial tensile loading. By simultaneously measuring the resistance, the load and the displacement histories, any direct correlations between the mechanical and electrical characteristics of the carbon nanotube yarns are investigated including the effect of strain level, strain rate, and stress relaxation. It was observed that all these effects play a significant role in the piezoresistive response of the carbon nanotube yarns. In particular, a low strain rate appears to bring out a unique piezoresistive response that is not observed at higher strain rates. The underlying phenomena determining the piezoresistive responses are hypothesized and discussed in the context of strain rate and maximum strain level.
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