Development of damage tolerant composite laminates using ultra-thin interlaminar electrospun thermoplastic nanofibres

Li, Danning and Prevost, Raphael and Ayre, David and Yoosefinejad, Ata and Lotfian, Saeid and Brennan, Feargal and Nezhad, Hamed Yazdani; (2019) Development of damage tolerant composite laminates using ultra-thin interlaminar electrospun thermoplastic nanofibres. In: 18th European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM-18). Applied Mechanics Laboratory, GRC. ISBN 9781510896932

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Carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites are extensively used in high performance transport and renewable energy structures. However, composite laminates face the recurrent problem of being prone to damage in dynamic and impact events due to extensive interlaminar delamination. Therefore, interlaminar tougheners such as thermoplastic veils are introduced between pre-impregnated composite plies or through-thickness reinforcement techniques such as tufting are employed. However, these reinforcements are additional steps in the process which will add a degree of complexity and time in preparing composite lay-ups. A novel material and laying-up process is proposed in this paper that uses highly stretched electrospun thermoplastic nanofibers (TNF) that can enhance structural integrity with almost zero weight penalty (having 0.2gsm compared to the 300gsm CFRP plies), ensuring a smooth stress transfer through different layers, and serves directional property tailoring, with no interference with geometric features e.g. thickness. Aerospace grade pre-impregnated CFRP composite laminates have been modified with the TNFs (each layer having an average thickness of <1 micron) electrospun on each ply, and autoclave manufactured, and the effect of the nanofibers on the fracture toughness has been studied. Interlaminar fracture toughness specimens were manufactured for Mode I (double cantilever beam) and Mode II (end notched flextural) fracture tests. Such thin low-density TNF layers added an improvement of 20% in failure loads and fracture toughness in modes I and II.