A Caltech Library Service

High Strain Composites and Dual-Matrix Composite Structures


Maqueda Jiménez, Ignacio (2014) High Strain Composites and Dual-Matrix Composite Structures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z34C-NY82.


Most space applications require deployable structures due to the limiting size of current launch vehicles. Specifically, payloads in nanosatellites such as CubeSats require very high compaction ratios due to the very limited space available in this typo of platform. Strain-energy-storing deployable structures can be suitable for these applications, but the curvature to which these structures can be folded is limited to the elastic range. Thanks to fiber microbuckling, high-strain composite materials can be folded into much higher curvatures without showing significant damage, which makes them suitable for very high compaction deployable structure applications. However, in applications that require carrying loads in compression, fiber microbuckling also dominates the strength of the material. A good understanding of the strength in compression of high-strain composites is then needed to determine how suitable they are for this type of application.

The goal of this thesis is to investigate, experimentally and numerically, the microbuckling in compression of high-strain composites. Particularly, the behavior in compression of unidirectional carbon fiber reinforced silicone rods (CFRS) is studied. Experimental testing of the compression failure of CFRS rods showed a higher strength in compression than the strength estimated by analytical models, which is unusual in standard polymer composites. This effect, first discovered in the present research, was attributed to the variation in random carbon fiber angles respect to the nominal direction. This is an important effect, as it implies that microbuckling strength might be increased by controlling the fiber angles. With a higher microbuckling strength, high-strain materials could carry loads in compression without reaching microbuckling and therefore be suitable for several space applications.

A finite element model was developed to predict the homogenized stiffness of the CFRS, and the homogenization results were used in another finite element model that simulated a homogenized rod under axial compression. A statistical representation of the fiber angles was implemented in the model. The presence of fiber angles increased the longitudinal shear stiffness of the material, resulting in a higher strength in compression. The simulations showed a large increase of the strength in compression for lower values of the standard deviation of the fiber angle, and a slight decrease of strength in compression for lower values of the mean fiber angle. The strength observed in the experiments was achieved with the minimum local angle standard deviation observed in the CFRS rods, whereas the shear stiffness measured in torsion tests was achieved with the overall fiber angle distribution observed in the CFRS rods.

High strain composites exhibit good bending capabilities, but they tend to be soft out-of-plane. To achieve a higher out-of-plane stiffness, the concept of dual-matrix composites is introduced. Dual-matrix composites are foldable composites which are soft in the crease regions and stiff elsewhere. Previous attempts to fabricate continuous dual-matrix fiber composite shells had limited performance due to excessive resin flow and matrix mixing. An alternative method, presented in this thesis uses UV-cure silicone and fiberglass to avoid these problems. Preliminary experiments on the effect of folding on the out-of-plane stiffness are presented. An application to a conical log-periodic antenna for CubeSats is proposed, using origami-inspired stowing schemes, that allow a conical dual-matrix composite shell to reach very high compaction ratios.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:High strain composites; microbuckling; deployable structures
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Thesis Committee:
  • Kochmann, Dennis M. (chair)
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Ortiz, Michael
  • Murphey, Thomas
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Defense Date:12 May 2014
Non-Caltech Author Email:maqueda (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05292014-191924394
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8431
Deposited By: Ignacio Maqueda Jimenez
Deposited On:31 May 2014 00:11
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:05

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page