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Compression Failure of Fibrous Laminated Composites in the Presence of Stress Gradients: Experiment and Analysis


Waas, Anthony Marius (1988) Compression Failure of Fibrous Laminated Composites in the Presence of Stress Gradients: Experiment and Analysis. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/PP86-PE50.


A series of experiments were performed to determine the mechanism of failure in compressively loaded laminated plates in the presence of stress gradients generated by a circular cutout. Real time holographic interferometry and in-situ photomicrography of the hole surface, were used to observe the progression of failure.

The test specimens are multi-layered composite flat plates, which are loaded in compression. The plates are made of two material systems, T300/BP907 and IM7/8551-7. Two different lay-ups of T300/BP907 and four different lay-ups of IM7/8551-7 are investigated.

The load on the specimen is slowly increased and a series of interferograms are produced during the load cycle. These interferograms are video-recorded. The results obtained from the interferograms and photo-micrographs are substantiated by sectioning studies and ultrasonic C-scanning of some specimens which are unloaded prior to catastrophic failure, but beyond failure initiation. This is made possible by the servo-controlled loading mechanism that regulates the load application and offers the flexibility of unloading a specimen at any given instance in the loadtime history.

An underlying objective of the present investigation is the identification of the physics of the failure initiation process. This required testing specimens with different stacking sequences, for a fixed hole diameter, so that consistent trends in the failure process could be identified.

It is revealed that the failure is initiated as a localized instability in the 0° plies at the hole surface, approximately at right angles to the loading direction. This instability emanating at the hole edge and propagating into the interior of the specimen within the 0° plies is found to be fiber microbuckling. The microbuckling is found to occur at a local strain level of ≃ 8600 µstrain at the hole edge for the IM material system. This initial failure renders a narrow zone of fibers within the 0° plies to loose structural integrity. Subsequent to the 0°-ply failure, extensive delamination cracking is observed with increasing load. The through thickness location of these delaminations is found to depend on the position of the 0° plies.

The delaminated portions spread to the undamaged areas of the laminate by a combination of delamination buckling and growth, the buckling further enhancing the growth. When the delaminated area reaches a critical size, about 75-100% of the hole radius in extent, an accelerated growth rate of the delaminated portions is observed. The culmination of this last event is the complete loss of flexural stiffness of each of the delaminated portions leading to catastrophic failure of the plate. The levels of applied load and the rate at which these events occur depend on the plate stacking sequence.

A simple mechanical model is presented for the microbuckling problem. This model addresses the buckling instability of a semi-infinte layered half-plane alternatingly stacked with fibers and matrix, loaded parallel to the surface of the half-plane. The fibers are modelled using Bernoulli-Navier beam theory, and the matrix is assumed to be a linearly elastic foundation. The predicted buckling strains are found to overestimate the experimental result. However, the dependence of the buckling strain on parameters such as the fiber volume fraction, ratio of Youngs moduli of the constituents and Poisson's ratio of the matrix are obtained from the analysis. It is seen that a high fiber volume fraction, increased matrix stiffness, and perfect bonding between fiber and matrix are desirable properties for increasing the compressive strength.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Buckling; Composites; Instability; Interferometry; Notches; Stress Concentration
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Minor Option:Applied Mathematics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Babcock, Charles D. (advisor)
  • Knauss, Wolfgang Gustav (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Babcock, Charles D. (co-chair)
  • Knauss, Wolfgang Gustav (co-chair)
  • Knowles, James K.
  • Rosakis, Ares J.
  • Hall, John F.
  • Lorenz, Jens
  • Singer, Josef
Defense Date:2 October 1987
Non-Caltech Author Email:dcw (AT)
Additional Information:Name listed in 1988 commencement program varies from actual thesis: Moderagé Anthony Marius Waas.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-11062003-092741
Persistent URL:
Waas, Anthony Marius0000-0002-5258-2749
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4415
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:06 Nov 2003
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 01:24

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