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Multidirectional Carbon Fiber Reinforced Materials

N. Athanasopoulos and V. Kostopoulos

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics

University of Patras, Greece

Abstract The ability of carbon fibers to conduct electric current can be used in a plethora

of applications. Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) can be divided into unidirectional and

multidirectional laminates. The electric conductivity of the unidirectional laminates presents

strong electric anisotropy and can be expressed by a symmetric, second order tensor. There is no

point in studying the electrical conductivity of CFRPs ignoring the microstructure of the material.

In order to consider a multi-layered material homogenous, it is of paramount importance that we

examine the intralaminar and interlaminar areas.

Using the continuity equation, it can be proved that the electric conductivity of the multidirectional laminates can also be expressed by a second order tensor (equivalent tensor). Therefore,

the electrical conductivity tensor of the CF preform can be calculated for any stacking sequence

assuming that the material is homogenous and that the plies thickness is negligible in comparison

to the other dimensions. The equivalent tensor can be imported into the elliptic partial differential

equation which is the governing equation for steady current in anisotropic media. Consequently,

the electric field and the current density can be calculated by solving the aforementioned elliptic

PDE.

The validity of the equivalent tensor was confirmed by measuring the electrical resistivity of

the multidirectional laminates media for various multidirectional laminates (stacking sequences).

For a second confirmation the coupled thermo-electric problem was solved numerically using

as input material the calculated equivalent tensor. The calculated temperature field for each

multidirectional laminate was confirmed experimentally via a thermal camera.

1. INTRODUCTION

The electric conductivity (EC) of unidirectional CFRP laminates has been thoroughly studied and

is dependant upon the fibre conductivity, fiber direction [1], fiber volume fraction [2] as well as the

temperature [3, 4] and the plies thickness [5]. In real structures, CFRPs consist of multidirectional

layers. The determination of the electric conductivity of the anisotropic multilayered material

is the most crucial factor for the calculation of the electric potential field, electric field and the

current density. Certain factors that are crucial as far as the electric field distribution is concerned,

are the following: the fibre volume fraction, as well as the material imperfections at a scale of

micrometers. All the above affect the electric field distribution at the microscopic level, resulting

in an obvious disturbance at the macroscopic level. In this study, we assume that the material

used is homogenous and anisotropic, hence it approximates the ideal anisotropic material. Also,

the layers thickness is negligible compared to the other dimensions (no electric potential gradient

through the layers thickness) and that the layers are in perfect contact with each other. This can

be achieved under certain conditions of temperature and pressure during the manufacturing stages

of the CFRP laminate.

Using optical microscopy, the intralaminar and interlaminar regions of the multi-layered CFRP

material can be examined and therefore we can decide whether the materials EC can be described

by the suggested equivalent second order tensor.

2. MATHEMATICAL PROOF OF THE EQUIVALENT TENSOR

The authors have verified the EC of any dry CF multidirectional layered material can be expressed

by a second order tensor, which is derived from each layers tensor [6]. Assuming that the body

is thin (2D space), the EC tensor can be determined very simply by using the continuity equation

for anisotropic continuum media. The EC tensor that describes the new equivalent multilayered

material is composed of the EC tensors that describe each CF layer, separately. As it is well known,

the following equation, Equation (1) expresses the current conservation in a closed surface S for the

anisotropic body. Integrated Equation (1) over a control volume and using the Divergence theorem:

ZZZ

ZZ

( J)dV =

J dS

(1)

V

1014

The total current that passes through the surface SL (total cross section area) is equal to the sum

of the electric current that passes the cross section of each layer of the surface Sn , Fig. 1(a), where

n is the outward unit normal vector of the surfaces SL and Sn . Hence, the integral of the dot

product of the current density and the surface of the cross section expressed by Equation (2).

IL =

=

ZZ

N

X

Ii

i=1

N ZZ

X

n=1

Sn

SL

JL ndSL =

N ZZ

X

n=1

ZZ

Sn

Jn ndSn

SL

(2)

where JL1 is the current density that crosses the representative volume in the direction x1 , and JL2

is the current density that crosses the representative volume in the direction x2 .

Integrated Equation (2) over the thickness (H) and the width (W ) from W/2 to W/2 of

the representative volume and dividing by the total surface (SL1 = HW ) the current density at

direction x1 is given by Equation (3).

L

L

|JL1 | = 11

E1 + 12

E2 =

N

X

Sn

n

( n E1 + 12

E2 )

SL1 11

(3)

n=1

where Sn = hn W is the cross section surface of each layer. Following the same procedure and

integrating over the other side of the representative volume (from W/2 to W/2) then it is concluded

that the current density at direction x2 is given by Equation (4).

|JL2 | =

L

21

E1

L

22

E2

N

X

Sn

n

( n E1 + 22

E2 )

=

SL2 21

(4)

n=1

The total current density (JL ) is equal to JL = JL1 i+JL2 j. Based on Equation (3) and Equation (4)

the final expression of the equivalent EC tensor (L ) for the multidirectional laminate can be

expressed by Equation (5).

N

N

P

P

n

n

L

N

Sn 11

Sn 12

L

1

1 X

11 12

1

1

Sn L

(5)

L =

=

=

L

L

N

N

SL

P

21

22

ST P

n

n

n=1

Sn 21

Sn 22

1

By combining layers of different direction, a new material is produced whose electric conductivity

depends on its layers electric conductivity. Fig. 2(b) demonstrates each layers EC tensor ellipse

(black line) for 0 fiber directions and (red line) for 30 fiber direction as well as the final materials

EC tensor ellipse (blue line) for stacking sequence (0/30/30/0). The eigenvalues as well as the

eigenvectors can be calculated as known. The equivalent EC tensor is valid only if the CFRP layers

are in perfect contact and the fiber volume fraction is high enough. The fiber volume fraction

of the laminate must be uniform at the intralaminar and interlaminar areas (detailed microscope

images, Fig. 1(a)). This uniformity can only be achieved by applying a specific temperature and

pressure profile during the CFRPs manufacturing stages, which will cause the rich-in-resin layer

to be diminished.

3. ELECTRIC POTENTIAL FIELD (3D TO 2D SPACE PROBLEM)

As far as a multilayered material is concerned and taking into account the second assumption

(no electric potential gradient through the thickness), the electric field distribution is a 3D space

problem. However, in the case where the plies thickness is small relatively to the other dimensions

the problem can be deduced to the 2D space, neglecting the plies thickness and the electrical

gradient through the thickness of the material. We studied the electric field distribution in multilayered materials of circular geometry by applying potential difference between the two concentric

circles of Fig. 2 (using Dirichlet boundary conditions). The results were compared to the respective

analytical 2D space problem solution. Two layers with EC tensors of 45 and 45 respectively,

Progress In Electromagnetics Research Symposium Proceedings, Moscow, Russia, August 1923, 2012 1015

(a)

(b)

Figure 1: (a) Elementary volume of the multidirectional laminates and the microstructure of the material

for two different pressure levels at manufacturing stage of the material, (b) eigenvalues and eigenvectors for

each CFRP layer and the new multidirectional CFRP material.

(a)

(c)

(e)

(b)

(d)

(f)

Figure 2: (a) Dimensionless electric potential field for circular domains as a function of layers thickness,

(b) absolute error between the numerical solution (3D space) and the (2D space) analytical solution, (c),

(d), (e), (f) comparison between numerical and analytical solutions as a function of ratio = Rmax /Rin for

layer thickness h = 0.05 mm.

produce a new multidirectional material of (45 ) with EC tensor of 45 . Considering that the

new material 45 can be expressed by a scalar quantity and not a tensor, we can calculate the

electric potential field distribution in polar coordinates using the Equation (6).

r/Rmax

(r) = o ln

(6)

Rin /Rmax

The previously mentioned analytical solution is compared to the respective numerical solution in

3D space, for various thickness layers and various ratios ( = Rmax /Rin ) where () is the external

to internal radius of the domain.

Figure 2(a) demonstrates the electric potential field distribution as a function of the radius (r),

1016

(c)

(e)

(d)

(f)

(a)

(g)

(h)

(b)

Figure 3: Numerical results and thermal camera images for two circular multidirectional CFRPs using the

equivalent EC tensor (Rmax /Rin = 4.5, Rmax = 157.5 mm, H = 0.726 mm, h = 0.121 mm). (a), (b) current

density, (c), (d) electric potential field (e), (f) calculated temperature field, (g), (h) measured temperature

field.

for a ratio of = 8 and for various ply thicknesses. It can be observed that as the thickness reduces,

the numerical solution at the middle of the laminates approximates the analytical solution. It is

obvious in Fig. 2(b) that the error between the two curves for an internal radius (Rin ) tends to zero

for high ratios ( = Rmax /h where () is the external radius to the layer thickness).

Final, Figs. 2(c), (d), (e), and (f) demonstrate the electric potential in dimensionless form, as a

function of radius (r) for layer thickness h = 0.05 mm and = 8, 16, 24, 32 ratios. These diagrams

depict the electric potential at the region where maximum deviation from the analytical solution

can be observed. The curves coincide for ratios > 8. Therefore Equation (5) is valid when the

layer thickness is small and it is safe to say that the error tends to zero.

4. VALIDATION OF THE EC TENSOR VIA THE JOULE EFFECT

The electric potential field in anisotropic homogeneous media can be expressed by an elliptic partial

differential equation, Equation (7). The symmetry of the EC tensor is a consequence of the symmetry of the kinetic coefficients (Onsager theorem [7]). Since the EC tensor is symmetric (12 = 21 ),

the electric potential field satisfies the following simplified elliptic PDE.

(L ) = 0

12 =21

11

2

2

2

+

+

2

=0

22

12

x21

x22

x1 x2

(7)

where (L ) is the EC tensor and () is the electric potential field. In the present work, the

thermoelectric effect is considered negligible. Using this assumption, the relation between the

current density (J) and the electric field for a homogeneous anisotropic conductor is expressed by

Equation (8).

aT=0

J = L (E aT ) J = L E = L ()

(8)

The boundary conditions for the following problem are described by a first kind boundary condition

(Dirichlet boundary condition) at the d regions and by second kind boundary conditions (Neumann

boundary condition) at the s .

The indirect method for the validation of the tensor involved the use of a thermal camera.

We studied a circular domain with a symmetric stacking sequence (0/30/45)s and ratio ( =

Progress In Electromagnetics Research Symposium Proceedings, Moscow, Russia, August 1923, 2012 1017

Rmax /Rin = 4.5) using different boundary conditions (two cases, Figs. 3(a) and (b)). The electric

potential difference was applied at the edges of the circular domain. Then, certain numerical models

were developed in order to solve the electrical problem of an anisotropic continuum body as well

as to find the electric field distribution and the current density. Since the thermoelectric effect

has been omitted, then the generated heat per unit time and volume is the dot product of the

electric field and the current density. The dot product in a known domain , with given boundary

conditions, changes according to the EC tensor of the layered medium. Different stacking sequences

lead to different equivalent EC tensors. Thus, the resulting generated heat in the known domain is

also different.

Considering an elementary volume, the heat transfer energy equation of an anisotropic porous

medium is given by Equation (9) [8].

((1 )(c)f + (c)m )

T

losses

= (kT ) + J E Q

t

(9)

where (k) is the thermal conductivity tensor and (1) is the fraction that is occupied by fibers, ()

losses ) is the energy losses through convection,

is the fraction that is occupied by matrix material, (Q

(c)f and (c)m denote the product of the density and specific heat capacity of the carbon fibers

and the matrix material respectively.

The measured temperature field Figs. 3(g) and (h) of each case was compared to the respective

numerically calculated, Figs. 3(e) and (f). For confrontation, the results will be presented in dimensionless form. More precisely, the electric potential field and the temperature field are presented

in dimensionless form, following the expression = /max and T = (T Tenv )/(Tmax Tenv )

respectively, Fig. 3.

5. CONCLUSIONS

The electric conductivity tensor of a multidirectional CFRP material can be expressed by a symmetric second order tensor which derives from the combination of each layers electrical conductivity

tensor, Equation (6). The above is valid in the case where the material is homogenous and the plies

thickness is negligible compared to the bodys other dimensions. If the applied pressure level is satisfactory during the materials manufacturing stages, the material could be assumed homogenous

and anisotropic. Applying electrical potential at the specimens inner and outer radius the temperature of the medium increase due to the Joule effect. The temperature field of the multilayered

medium depends on the EC tensor (stacking sequence of the CFRP) and the boundary conditions.

The calculated temperature field is in excellent agreement with the temperature measurements

using the thermal camera.

REFERENCES

carbon fibre reinforced plastic disc and its use as a transducer, J. Phys. E: Sci. Instruments,

Vol. 8, 369370, 1975.

2. Weber, M. and M. R. Kamal, Estimation of the volume resistivity of electrically conductive

composites, Polym. Compos., Vol. 8, No. 6, 711725, 1997.

3. Athanasopoulos, N., D. Sikoutris, T. Panidis, and V. Kostopoulos, Numerical investigation and experimental verification of the Joule heating effect of polyacrylonitrilebased carbon fiber tows under high vacuum conditions, J. Compos. Mater., 2011, DOI:

10.1177/0021998311430159.

4. Takahashi, K. and H. T. Hahn, Investigation of temperature dependency of electrical resistance changes for structural management of graphite/ polymer composite, J. Compos. Mater.,

Vol. 45, No. 25, 26032611, 2011.

5. Athanasopoulos, N. and V. Kostopoulos, Prediction and experimental validation of the electrical conductivity of dry carbon fibre unidirectional layers, Composites Part B: Engineering,

Vol. 40, 15781587, 2011.

6. Athanasopoulos, N. and V. Kostopoulos, Resistive heating of multi-directional and unidirectional dry carbon fibre preforms, Compos. Sci. Technol., Apr. 18, 2012, DOI:

10.1016/j.compscitech.

7. Landau, L. D. and E. M. Lifshitz, Steady Current, Electrodynamics of Continuous Media, 2nd

Edition, Vol. 8, 86104, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 2009.

1018

8. Nield, D. A. and A. Bejan, Heat Transfer through a Porous Medium, Convection in Porous

Media, 2nd Edition, 2728, Springer, 2006.

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