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Composite Materials

Two different materials that have different characteristics are
combined together, Multi-phased materials. Both constituents
contribute to the properties of the final material.
Wood is a cellular material where the cells have cellulose fibres that
grow in a similar direction. It is a natural composite. Fibres will give
the strength and the stiffness to the wood. Another example is
reinforced concrete is very strong in compressions however it has
poor behaviour when it is under tension. Another natural composite
is bone. It includes fibres and minerals that give the toughness of
our bones.
Steel with the eutectic composition that includes
pearlite: ferrite and cementite that are 2 dissimilar phases, however
this is not considered as a composite. Composites are artificially
made and they are not the result of a homogenous melt.
They are a new class of materials: fibreglass materials. These
composite materials that are used for structural materials have a
very high strength to weight ratio and a very high stiffness to weight
ratio. The common problem is that strong materials are usually high
in density and are heavier. The use of composites was quite
restricted because little knowledge was known regarding such
materials as opposed to metals. Composite materials even for the
simple class the ones that are easy to produce are still very
expensive. The idea was to use them where the cost of production
would justify their use. In the car industry they are getting more
popular due to their weight saving property. Are also used in the
marine industry since they do not corrode and rot. A layer of gel
coat is normally used to protect the composite from UV radiation.
The properties are generally anisotropic; their properties differ in the
direction of the fibres. They are less ductile which can cause
problems with large loadings. They are found not to be too
susceptible to fatigue. When it comes to aerospace, their fatigue
performance is not a critical design factor like in metals. They have
advantages in corrosion and fatigue. However, they can be affected
by moisture and their polymer resistance temperature is much less.
Fibre reinforced dental resins-polymer composite that is stronger
and much more susceptible to failure. Dentures undergo a lot of
masticating forces that is a lot of fatigue stress. Research is being
conducted to improve dentures from failing such as tubes with liquid
resin that leaks when the denture is damaged.
The main property determining factors of composites:
The properties of the matrix and the dispersed phase

The proportion of volume of each component - those that have

a metallic matrix, the dispersed phase is usually stronger and
The morphologies (the shape has a big effect: the higher
length to diameter ratio the better the properties, the
orientation also has a big effect together with the size and
distribution) of the components (the dispersed phase)
The effectiveness of the bond between the components if
the bonding between the fibres and the matrix is not strong
enough no stress transfer occurs -As soon as a tensile load is
applied, the matrix transfers the load to the fibres so that they
would take most of the load. If there is no bonding then no
stress transfer can occur, => fiber pull out and they would
reside within the composite w/o taking any load.
The presence of filler materials especially with the resin we
add fillers to impart a certain property such as abrasion
resistance, sometimes also to lower the cost by using cheap
filler materials like silica.

Different reinforcements that one might find in composites slide 8

The dispersed phase is usually stiffer and stronger: particulate and
fibrous type of reinforcement.
Particulate (Particle Reinforced Composites):

Large particle composite contribute to an increase in

strength by interacting with the surrounding matrix in the
macro level. They can be made from different dispersed
phase. The particle is often macroscopic. The particles should
be evenly distributed. The bond needs to be effective. *Slide
To compute the stiffness of such composites see slide 12-Rule
of mixtures. The stiffness lies over a range: the upper bound
and the lower bound. As the dispersed phase is increased the
stiffness increases as well.
Ceramic particles are hard but brittle and low in toughness.
Typically have low fracture toughness values, they tend to fail
by large impacts. Can be enhanced by embedding ceramic
particles within a metallic matrix to hold the ceramic particles
together and to prevent any crack from propagating from one
particle to the next. To increase strength, hardness and wear
resistance and it can have an effect on thermal conductivity
and dimensional stability. The carbide cutting tools used on a
lathe or drill bits used to drill in concrete with a carbide tip,
tungsten carbides particles are embedded within a metallic
binder usually the metallic binder is cobalt and sometimes it is
also nickel. Another example is tungsten carbide in steel for
wear resistance.

Carbon black is usually brought from the result of rich

combustion of oil or gas. During combustion we get very fine
particles less than 100nm that are used as a filler material to
rubber. Gives high toughness, tear and abrasion resistance. It
is so popular as an addition to rubber since these particles can
bond very well to the rubber matrix.
Silica is not used with rubber even though it is very cheap and
has a lot of good characteristics since it does not bond very
well with rubber.
Concrete is a mixture of cement with high amounts of
dispersed phase. Up to around 80% of concrete, which
consists of fine sand and coarser gravel. Adding too much
water results in porosity. The particulate phase should be free
from clay in order to bond well with the cement. It is a very
common composite and it is only good in compression.

Dispersion strengthened the dispersed phase is very

small and the strengthening is done by the dislocation
mobility in the dispersed phase- very similar to age hardening
in aluminium. The dispersed phase in these types of
composites are usually oxide materials. With precipitation
hardening if the material is exposed to a high temp the
coherent precipitates can easily grow (coarsen) or dissolve
and lose the strength. However with this process we can
select strengthening particles that are more stable with
temperature and do not change in size.

Fibrous Composites (Fibre-Reinforced Composites) - the

strengthening phase consists of fibres that have a high length to
diameter ratio.
The Fibres increase strength and stiffness in
polymeric or metallic matrices. When fibres are added to ceramics
the idea is to increase toughness by crack bridging that prevents
the crack from propagating.
Single layer - One lamina usually consists of a sheet of fibres
oriented in one direction. So the properties of a single lamina
in 2D are highly anisotropic
o Continuous Fibres
Can be aligned in one direction or randomly oriented.
They are much stiffer than discontinuous fibres.
Fibre lengths >15Lc
o Discontinuous Fibres
Easier to produce than the continuous fibres
Random Orientation and Preferred Orientation
Fibre Lengths < 15Lc

Multi-layered laminates various laminas that are attached to

each other with the fibre orientations being in the desired
direction. Can be also considered as structural composites.

*Slide 22- stresses in fibres and matrix. The fibre can take most of
the load due to its stiffness. The strength and stiffness are highly
dominated by the fibre. Lc is the length of fibre required to reach the
maximum stress before fracture. If the matrix reaches the shear
strength it will shear.
*Slide 24 critical length equation
*Slide 26 4 different composites and their respective critical lengths
and length to diameter ratios. Longer fibres result in more difficult
and costly processing.
A fibre composite where the fibres are continuous and aligned: The
fibre reinforcement is at its maximum in one direction and zero in
the transverse direction. The properties are highly anisotropic.
*Slide 28- the matrix is ductile, the stiffness of the matrix is lower
than that of the fibre, and the fracture strain of the matrix is higher
than the fracture strain of the fibre. The fibre is brittle and higher in
tensile strength and stiffness.
Initially during stage 1 of deformation the composite is pulled and
the matrix and fibres are both being strained at equal amounts:
isostrain in an elastic fashion. Then in stage 2 as the load is
increased the fibres will continue to stretch elastically while the
matrix will start to deform plastically. A certain strain is reached
which is equivalent to the maximum fibre strain and the fibres start
to break. This is the onset of composite failure. The matrix can take
the load and redistribute it to other fibres; therefore the failure
would not be catastrophic. At failure point the total stress within the
composite is the stress multiplied by the volume fraction of the
matrix. *See slide 29 and worked examples in Callister.
The modulus of the composite when loaded in a transverse direction
to the fibres see slide 30. Weak bonding will translate into lower
strength-slide 31. The properties of the composites of slide 32 are
highly anisotropic. An epoxy matrix and the fibre is a polymer-Kevlar.
In the transverse direction the Kevlar is acting as a negative
Discontinuous and Aligned Fibre Composites less than 15
times the critical length are easier to process and there are more
techniques, which can produce them and can yield cheaper
Less strength than the continuous aligned fibre
composites: since the fibres are short and therefore fewer fibres are
available to carry the maximum amount of load. A continuous fibre
equal to the critical length the tensile strength would be around half
that of a continuous fibre which exceeds the critical length by 15
times. If the length of the fibre is smaller than the critical length, the
fibre wont manage to reach the tensile strength. The load carrying
capability of the composite will be very limited.

Discontinuous Random oriented fibre composites the fibre

efficiency parameter depends on the relative volume of the fibres
and the volume per cent of the matrix.
Polycarbonates are known for their impact toughness. Also they are
considered to be the strongest amongst polymers. When the volume
fraction of the fibres is increased the tensile strength increases.
Doubling the reinforcement almost doubles the modulus. The impact
strength is reduced when volume fraction is increased.
Consider a composite where all fibres are parallel, are aligned in one
direction and the properties are anisotropic the reinforcement
efficiency would be 1(parallel to fibres) and 0(perpendicular to the
fibres). If the fibres are randomly and uniformly distributed within a
specific plane than in any direction the reinforcement efficiency is
3/8. If the fibres are randomly and uniformly distributed in all
directions (3D) the fibre reinforcement will be around 1/5 with the
advantage that it would cater for stresses in all directions.
Structural Composites Sandwich panels consist of two stiff strong
plates, which are sandwiching a core material such as foam. They
are increasing the moment of area; the stronger material is being
furthered away from the neutral axis. Laminate composites are
made from various layers containing fibres in various directions and
are considered to be structural composites. In these laminates
during production some problems could occur such as residual
stresses which can lead to warpage and even to cracking or
delamination from one layer to the next. Also, residual stress could
occur during processing. Another problem is chopped fibre
laminates. *See slide 36
The matrix in composites could be made either from a metallic,
polymeric or ceramic material. Usually the matrix is a tough
material not always, in metals and polymers it is tough. The role of
the matrix is to act as a binder with the fibre ensuring they are held
in the desired position and ensuring that a proper stress transfer is
obtained. It also protects the fibres from degradation. Fibre material
have a high strength because fibres consist of material having very
small volume of material, this reduces drastically the chance that a
defects lies within the material. The surface of the fibres is coated
with a sizing compound to protect the fibres until they are laid in the
composite. In ceramic composites reinforcements are added to
increase toughness. The selection of the matrix is very important
since it also has a big effect on the composite. The matrix influences
the mechanical properties and the surface temperature: how the
composite is going to behave at different temperatures. The matrix
ideally is there to help achieve a high strength to weight ratio and a
high stiffness to weight ratio. In Polymer matrices usually the most

commonly used are the polyester resins. These are cheap and have
a good adhesion to the glass fibres. Epoxies are somewhat of better
properties than polyester, are much more expensive. The Polyimides
have a high temperature resistance and are also fire resistant. Even
higher performance polymers include PEEK and PPS are highly
resistant to high temperatures.
Fibre materials are materials that have a high aspect ratio. The
fibres can be crystalline for example most metals or they can be
amorphous where the atoms are randomly oriented- example glass.
They can also have a combination of amorphous and crystalline and
by changing the amount of crystalline and amorphous a very big
change in properties: strength and stiffness can result.
Whiskers are materials, which have a very high length to diameter
ratio, the diameters can be submicron in size. They are single
crystals and very small therefore they have a very high degree of
crystalline perfection, the grain boundary will contain a mismatch of
grains, no amorphous regions. They are flaw free. Any flaw in the
material can act as a stress concentrator. They include a variety of
materials such as Alumina and Silicon Carbide. These materials are
very expensive and therefore are not as used as the fibre
Wires also have a very high length to diameter ratio. Are used quite
a lot for example in the production of car tyres, hydrogen hoses.
These wires are produced from a variety of high strength materials.
GFRP- glass fibres can be produced quite easily. The idea of adding
other oxides to Silica is to reduce the melting temperature of the
glass making it cheaper and easier to produce. Very fine glass fibres
made from E glass are very cheap but it can operate up to lower
temperatures since it can easily creep and soften. A composite,
which has to resist high temperatures glass fibres need to consist of
almost pure Silica. Advantages of glass fibres are easily to produce
and very versatile and the raw material is available. They are
chemically resistant, they are coated to avoid moisture.
Disadvantages include low stiffness and low rigidity; they can be
prone to osmotic degradation. Applications include the marine
industry, storage containers and industrial floorings. They can be
found in various forms, having a low modulus allows them to be
form in various forms. Can be woven, stitched, loose and joined
together to form a yard.
CFRP the techniques to produce carbon fibres are more expensive
than the techniques to form glass fibres. The higher the temperature
the higher the crystallinity and the fibre are more expensive. Carbon
fibres are very commonly coated with epoxy. The modulus of these
fibres is very higher. The higher the treatment temp the higher the

modulus. Chemical Resistant however they are very prone to

oxidation above 400 deg C. If Oxygen is present their useful
temperature would be up to a maximum of 400 deg C. Include
continuous fibres and chopped fibres.
Aramid Fibre such as Kevlar and Nomex. These fibres are called
Aramids and are polymeric materials. Aromatic Polyamides- an
amide means that we have a carboxic combined with Nitrogen.
Various types of Kevlar the amides are linked to the 1 and 4
positions. In Nomex the amides are linked to the 1 and 3 positions.
These polymers can form a high degree of crystallinity when drawn.
Advantages a very high stiffness to weight ratio, * see slide 52.
Hand Lay Up Process: a mold tool produced from a cheap
material-wood and this mold tool is usually is first covered with a gel
coat that protects ingress of water and has the characteristics that it
can be set to have a very good finish. A mixture of resin that is not
too viscous so that it could penetrate the fibre. Rollers are used to
press and impregnate the resin in the fibres. This process can use
any resin such as epoxy. Fabric can be made out of glass, Kevlar. If
the fibre is too heavy it might be difficult to impregnate.
Advantages of such process: cheap tooling, can be accustomed for
a few products, has been used for many years, high skills not
required to do the job, plenty of supplies makes the material
competitive, reasonably high fibre content.
Disadvantages: the resin and catalyst (a substance added to make
a reaction faster to convert resin to polymer) are mixed by hand
that might result in quality problems (quality depends in skill),
health and safety - volatile constituents, the low viscosity resin can
also easily penetrate clothing one must be properly dressed when
doing such a process, expensive extraction systems, the low
viscosity resins (resins with low molecular weight) will translate to
lower mechanical and thermal properties, since it utilises fabric it
makes it more expensive.
Spray Lay-Up process: is used almost exclusively with polyester
resins. Styrene is added to reduce viscosity and thus makes it easier
to spray. It is principally used with glass fibres. A composite is
formed where the fibres are randomly oriented and relatively short
therefore less ability to carry high loads. Inner side can have a
limited surface finish.
Advantages: cheap tooling, experience, faster than the up layout,
in terms of fibre content these techniques would have lower fibre
content and therefore more rich in resin.
Disadvantages: chopped fibres that are limited in strength, quality
depends in skill, problems with styrene levels going in the
atmosphere therefore health and safety issues, low viscosity resin
even less than before-low properties.

Typical applications are applications were light weight is required

and adequate strength: shower trays, bathtubs, small dinghys or
Vacuum bagging process: A coating is applied to laminate. The
pressure helps to further impregnate the laminate. We surround
polymer with thick plastic sheet so that after we are finished with
the lay up we vacuum the air and by doing so we have one
atmosphere of pressure acting on the composite which will help to
impregnate the laminate. The release film is a thin layer of polymer
where it allows the composite to breathe without sticking to the
upper layers. The absorption fabric absorbs an excess resin. The
maximum pressure that can be applied in this case is the
atmospheric pressure.
Advantages: less porosity, better fibre wet out, higher fibre
content, the composite is enclosed and it is easier to control the
volatile constituents. Disadvantages: requires more skilled people,
expensive, the mixture is also done by people which can reduce the
Applications: Race cars components
Pultrusion: similar to drawing in the production of metallic wires.
The starting material is fibre making it cheaper. These fibres are
made to pass through a resin bath. The die is designed to control
the fibre resin ratio. From there it goes through a curing die, heats
the polymer to make curing faster. The resin is cured using
temperature. Then pullers pull the composite out and the process
can be continuous ==> continuous composite being produced.
Advantages: fast process, economic to produce composites which
have a constant cross section, the fibre cost is minimised since we
are not using fabric, laminates which give a good structural
properties, it is possible to get high volume fractions with this fibre,
the resin impregnation area is in a closed room which will limit any
volatile constituents in the work place. Disadvantages process is
very limited to have fibres oriented in other directions: Typical
Applications: structural beams, frameworks such as ladders.
Pre-impregnated tapes: very thin tapes with different widths,
these tapes contain fibres in one direction with very accurate fibre
to resin content and with a resin, which is only partially taped. These
tapes are used to build laminates. They are produced from partially
cured resins and then they are stored in a cold environment in order
to ensure that the semi-cured resin does not set-stop curing. Prepeg tapes are moulded on the tool and this is applied in any
direction requires. Once they are laid they are fitted in a similar
configuration to vacuum bagging. Materials usually used- any resin
and any fibre. The cores have to withstand the temperature at the
autoclave. Advantage: the inital fibre cost is relatively cheaper
because we are not using fabric but continuous fabric. however

prepreg tapes are by themselves an expesive raw material to use.

We can use high viscosity resins because of high pressure => even
better properties.are by themselves an expensive raw material to
use , high viscosity resin-better properties,
Disadvantages: pre-pegs are expensive, pre-impregnated fabrics are
even more expensive, autoclaves are expensive as well, less choice
in core materials due to the fact that they need to withstand high
temperatures and pressures.
Typical applications: structural part of an aircraft
Filament Winding: a mandrel and continuous fibres that go into a
resin bath, nip rollers control the amount of resin, there are many
ways how to lay the fibres on the mandrel. This technique is very
suitable to produce pressure vessels, missile casings and also pipe
lines. An alternative to fibres pre-pegs can also be used. Any resins
can be used: epoxies. Cores can be used however usually they are
single skill composites. Advantages: very fast process, very good
structural properties. Disadvantages: limited to convex shapes
and oval products, difficult to lay the fibres parallel to the
longitudinal axis, external surface is not moulded the internal
surface is moulded; a lower viscosity resin is used which can limit
the properties of the matrix.
Resin Transfer: a fabric is used most of the time a stitched fabric
to allow space for the resin to go through. The mould is expensive
since it has to resist pressure. Resin is injected under pressure to fill
the cavity. This technique can produce components with good
surface finish on the side. Typical applications would be composite
bus and train seats. Advantages: high volume fraction of fibre, can
be automated, both components have a moulded surface finish that
leads to a good surface finish.
Disadvantages: More expensive tooling, unimpregnated parts
Metal matrix composites are more expensive however they produce
a material with high resistance to temperature, more resistant to
fire. Use a variety of matrices: al, mg, cu, ti. *see slide 67 During
processing that involves high temperatures one must be careful so
that we do not have unwanted reactions between the fibre and the
Ceramic matrix composites such as concrete are reinforced mainly
to increase the toughness of the ceramic matrix and also make the
yield strength or the tensile strength less scattered around. The
fracture toughness of ceramics ranges from 1-5 MPa and by
reinforcing this rises to around 20MPa. Zirconia increases the
toughness of the ceramic matrix. At high temp it changes structure,
stabilisers are added to stabilise the high temp phase at room temp.
It hinders crack propagations making the material tougher. Another
way to toughen is to add whiskers or fibres. As soon as a crack

forms and starts propagating, the whiskers can bridge the crack and
thus hindering the crack propagation.