Durability of Polymer Composite Materials
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The purpose of this research is to examine structural durability of advanced composite materials under critical loading conditions, e.g., combined thermal and mechanical loading and shear fatigue loading. A thermal buckling model of a burnt column, either axially restrained or under an axial applied force was developed. It was predicted that for a column exposed to the high heat flux under simultaneous constant compressive load, the response of the column is the same as that of an imperfection column; the instability of the burnt column happens. Based on the simplified theoretical prediction, the post-fire compressive behavior of fiberglass reinforced vinyl-ester composite columns, which have been exposed to high heat flux for a certain time was investigated experimentally, the post-fire compressive strength, modulus and failure mode were determined. The integrity of the same column under constant compressive mechanical loading combined with heat flux exposure was examined using a specially designed mechanical loading fixture that mounted directly below a cone calorimeter. All specimens in the experiments exhibited compressive instability. The experimental results show a thermal bending moment exists and has a significant influence on the structural behavior, which verified the thermal buckling model. The trend of response between the deflection of the column and exposure time is similar to that predicted by the model. A new apparatus was developed to study the monotonic shear and cyclic-shear behavior of sandwich structures. Proof-of-concept experiments were performed using PVC foam core polymeric sandwich materials. Shear failure occurred by the extension of cracks parallel to the face-sheet/core interface, the shear modulus degraded with the growth of fatigue damage. Finite element analysis was conducted to determine stress distribution in the proposed specimen geometry used in the new technique. Details for a novel apparatus used for the fatigue testing of thin films and face sheets are also provided.