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Fatigue and Environmental Resistance of Polyester and

Nylon Fibers

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge,Massachusetts 02139

The fatigue resistance of individual synthetic fibers can
govern the performance of complex fiber assemblies such
as tire cord and marine rope under certain loading condi-
tions. This paper explores the relative performance of
polyester and nylon 6,6 fibers and yarns, both dry and in
aqueous solutions, primarily synthetic seawater. Fiber
failure over a range of loading conditions and frequencies
was found to occur at a critical cumulative strain, governed
by a creep rupture process; the cyclic lifetime for both
fibers is predictable using a simple creep rupture based
theory. Polyester is more resistant to creep rupture, and
consequently outperforms nylon 6.6 in cyclic fatigue. The
advantage of polyester is considerably greater in aqueous
solutions, where the performance of the nylon is dimin-
ished. Other comparisons indicate that the particular poly-
ester fibers studied have higher stiffness and strength,
lower strain to failure, and much lower hysteresis energy
absorption compared with the nylon. The actual fatigue
performance of complex fiber assemblies such as ropes is
also limited under many conditions by factors not present
in single fiber or yarn fatigue, including hysteric heating
and internal and external abrasion.

INTRODUCTION of a study of the resistance of polyester fibers
to fatigue and seawater, as compared with ear-
ighly oriented polymer fibers are used in
H many structural applications, such as tire
cords, coated fabrics, and ropes, where resist-
lier results for nylon 6,6.It must be emphasized
that the results to date are for only one type
each of nylon 6,6 and polyester out of the many
ance to cyclic fatigue loading is important. Ma- fibers and finishes now available. The results
rine ropes used in ship operations including are also limited to simple fiber and yarn behav-
towing and mooring are often large in diameter
with millions of individual fibers twisted and ior, avoiding many of the complexities present
combined into many levels of structure. They in full-scale ropes (see Ref. 6 ) .
must withstand creep and fatigue loading, in-
ternal and external abrasion, and various en- EXPERIMENTAL
vironmental agents including seawater. Rope The experimental methods used in this study
failures can be sudden and catastrophic. have been described in detail in Refs. 1 and 2.
Of the fibers used in ropes, interest in marine The nylon and polyester single fiber and yarn
applications currently centers on the relative characteristics and properties are described in
merits of polyester [poly(ethylene terephthal- Table 1. Fatigue tests used a sinusoidal wave-
ate), PET] and nylon. Nylon has been used most form in load control at a stress ratio, R (mini-
widely in the past, and its resistance to fatigue mum force/maximum force), of 0.1. Testing
and the marine environment has been studied was done on a servohydraulic machine with a
in detail (1, 2). However, polyester has shown special vibration isolation frame described in
improved performance in a variety of rope test Ref. 1. The frequency was varied in each data
programs (3-6).This paper presents the results set to maintain a constant average load rate;
Present address: CHEMFAB, Merrirnack, NH.
the master frequency given on each figure is
** Present address: Albany International Research Co., Dedham. MA. the value in a single-cycle ultimate strength
J . F. Mandell, M. G. Steckel, S.-S. C h u n g , a n d M. C. K e n n e y
Table 1. Static Properties of Polyester and Nylon 6,6 Fibers and Yarns'
Polyester Nylon 6.6
Single Fiber Yarn Single Fiber Yarn
Type (DuPont D608) (DuPont 707)
Denier 5.2 1000 6 I260
Fiber Dia. (pm) 23 - 30 -
Spec. Gravity (g/cm3) 1.39 - 1.14 -
Dry Strength (GPa) 1.14 1.09 1.01 .97 (.92)**
(g/denier) 9.37 8.96 10.3 9.96 (9.2)"
Wet Strength (GPa) 1.19 1.10 ,923 .94
(g/denier) 9.78 9.01 9.43 9.6
Dry Ult. Strain (YO) 16.3 15.9 19.9 19.3
Wet Ult. Strain (YO) 14.9 14.2 18.5 19.6
Dry Initial Young's Mod. (GPa) 15.2 14.7 5.86 5.87
(g/denier) 126 121 59.8 60.2
Wet Initial Young's Mod. (GPa) 15.4 14.8 1.93 2.20
(g/denier) 133 122 19.7 22.6
* A l l yarn tensile properties obtained at a load or stroke rate to give failure in approximately 0.5 s; single fibers were tested at a slower rate, giving failure times of 3 s. Dry indicates
ambient laboratory air; wet is immersed in seawater with a 5-15 min preconditioning.All yarns were lightly interlaced (not twisted). Data are an average of 5 or more tests in most
**Values in ()obtained in load control with an initial minimum load (l), which gave lower strength; no differencewas found in wet tests.

test, while the frequency at lower loads is varied
inversely in proportion to the ratio of the max-
imum cylic load to the one-cycle ultimate load.
Creep rupture tests were run on the servohy-
draulic equipment and also on deadweight test
stands. Cyclic data including hysteresis, creep,
and strain range per cycle were recorded on a
digital oscilloscope and computer system. Sea-
water tests were run immersed in synthetic
seawater of composition specified by ASTM LL1
D 1141-75; specimens were preconditioned for 0
10 min before testing. All test specimens were k.
prepared as described in Refs. 1 and 2 with
adhesively bonded tabs, a silicone rubber tran-
sitional region, and a gage length of 12.5 cm.
A t least 80% of the failures were in the gage-
section; any tab failures were discarded.
References 1 , 2, and 7 give detailed results STRAIN cuMu Iv Eilb~
and discussion for the effects of various load- ALL CASES
ing, geometrical, and environmental parame- Fig. 1. Schematic of high stress tensile behavior of single
ters on the behavior of DuPont 707 nylon single fibers and yarns showing the effects of load history.
fibers, lightly interlaced yarns, and small ropes.
The findings are summarized as follows:
1. Single fibers, interlaced yarns, and small 3 . If we assume that the cyclic fatigue lifetime
double-braided ropes all show similar fa- is dominated by a creep rupture mechanism,
tigue sensitivity when the data are normal- the cumulative time to failure in fatigue can
ized by the initial strength; thus, there are be predicted by a simple model such as that
no measurable interfiber effects on the life- reported by Coleman (8)using creep rupture
time in simple tensile fatigue up to the scale of individual fibers as the only material
of small (4.8-mm diameter) rope. This find- property. Figure 2 (from Ref. 1 ) shows ex-
ing appears also to apply to large nylon ropes cellent agreement between this theory (in-
at high load levels (6). cluding statistical variation from the creep
2. Failure occurs when a critical cumulative rupture tests) and fatigue data at master
strain is reached. A s illustrated in Fig. 1 , frequencies varying from 0.1 to 20 Hz. The
the cumulative failure strain is unaffected failure condition is defined in terms of the
by load history, including creep, cyclic fa- time under load, not the number of cycles. If
tigue at various load levels and frequencies, plotted as a function of cycles, the data sets
simple stress-strain loading, and residual at different frequencies would be separated
strength tests after cycling (the effects of by more than two decades.
test interruptions with long recovery periods 4. The creep rupture curve for yarns and small
are presently being investigated). ropes is complicated by frictional reloading

Fatigue and Environmental Resistance of Polyester and Nylon Fibers

7 %

3 40t
B Experimental Fatigue Data
30 1 Hz 0 0.1 Hz 6.2 Hz R = 0.1

1 1 I I I
01 1
1 I I I I I

0 I 2 3 4 5 6
Fig. 2. Cyclicfatigue d a t af o r nylon 6,6 single fibers compared with creep rupture based theoretical prediction From Ref.

of broken fibers under dry conditions, so the
prediction in ReJ. 3 works best using single
fiber baseline creep rupture data.
5. Distilled water immersion reduces the I000

strength of single nylon 6,6 fibers by about
9% compared with 65% relative humidity - 800
air; this effect varies at higher levels of -

structure, but a reduction in strength of 10- 600
20% for wet vs. dry conditions is usually
reported for nylon 6,6. The initial (low-
strain) modulus is reduced by more than a
factor of two, but the slope of the remainder
of the stress-strain curve is less affected 200

(Fig.3).Most rope usage is in the low-strain
range. n
6 . Single fibers and yarns give similar results. STPAIN I81
Salt water and more severe stress-cracking Fig. 3. Tensile stress-strain curvesfor nylon 6,6 and PET
agents such as LiCl and LiBr, which have a single fibers under wet (sea water immersion) and dry
strong effect on bulk nylon 6,6, show no (ambient air) conditions.
worse effect on nylon fibers than does dis-
tilled water. The effect of stress-cracking
agents is greatly reduced by orientation, so a lower strain to failure, as compared with
that no effect is found in highly drawn rope DuPont 707 nylon 6,6. The polyester shows
fibers in the axial direction. little effect of water on the stress-strain curve
(Fig. 3 ) or the strength. Polyester does have a
POLYESTER RESULTS AND DISCUSSION significantly higher density than nylon (Table
The polyester yarn results given here are I ) , so that the strength in terms of linear den-
taken from Ref. 9, where more details are avail- sity (g/denier or g/tex) is lower in the dry con-
able. As shown in Table 1 and Fig. 3, the dition.
DuPont D 608 polyester yarn used in this study Figure 4 gives maximum stress vs. log cycles
has a higher initial modulus and strength, but to failure ( S - N ) data for the polyester yarns in

J . F. M a n d e l l , M . G. S t e c k e l , S.-S. C h u n g , and M. C. K e n n e y

ambient air and in seawater at a master fre- stress-strain curve shape toward a steeper (stif-
quency of 1 Hz. Under both conditions, the poly- fer) curve with less hysteresis as cycling pro-
ester performance is superior to the nylon 6,6 gresses. Figure 8 gives typical data for the
results presented in Refs. 1 and 2 [each data strain range (maximum to minimum) on partic-
set is normalized by the initial strength at the ular cycles as cycling progressed to failure. The
respective condition). These results are in strain range at low cycles (note the log scale)
agreement with literature data for larger dropped rapidly, followed by a very gradual de-
strands and ropes (3-6).
When expressed in terms of cumulative time
to fail, the polyester follows a similar criterion
to that discussed for nylon. Figure 5 indicates
that, at the same maximum stress, the creep
rupture lifetime [ R = 1.0) is very similar to the
cumulative test time to failure under cyclic load-
ing. (Failure in creep is expected at a slightly
shorter time at the same maximum load be-
cause of the reduced load during much of each
fatigue cycle; this effect is then accounted for
in the creep rupture based model.) Figure 6
gives the maximum cumulative strain during
cycling at two load levels. At failure, the maxi-
mum cyclic strain approaches the creep rupture I UG CYCLLS
strain as well as the failure strain in a simple Fig. 6. Creep extension (strain at maximum loadJduring
stress-strain test (about 16%).Thus, the polyes- cyclicfatiguefor polyester yarns (R = 0.1)compared with
ter data conform to the schematic in Fig. 1 , failure strain in creep rupture.
which was based on nylon 6,6 results. Simi-
larly, in Fig. 7, the residual strength at up to
80% of the mean S-N lifetime is unchanged
from the initial strength.
Figure 1 also includes a trend in the cyclic

~ ~ y o ~ l s , , l . O i l z
85 P I T S . 1.0 H Z
I , ~

A 80 XUTS, 0.1 llZ

0.7 0.4 (I. b 11.8 .
I I1


Nvi ON
Fig. 7. Residual tensile strength of polyester yarns at
various fractions of the average failure time for three
cyclic load conditions (R= 0.1).

Fig. 4 . S - N cyclic fatigue data for polyester yarns as
compared with trend lines for nylon 6.6 (R = 0.1. master
frequency = 1 H z ) .

:! 2 GU -

7 7
3 .

20- 0 CREtP
I I 1 I I I
1u- CYCLIC FATIGUL 1 2 3 I, b
I 1
Fig. 8. Cyclic extension (maximum strain - minimum
strain on each cycle)of a polyester yarn specimen tested
to failure at 75% UTS maximum load, R = 0.1, and 1.0

Fatigue and Environmental Resistance of Polyester and Nylon Fibers

crease over most of the lifetime. Just before COMPARISON OF NYLON 6, 6 AND
failure the strain range increased because of POLYESTER
the failure of some indyvidual fibers in the yarn
(under load limits). Figure 9 shows a similar A t the level of individual fibers and yarns,
pattern in the hysteresis energy for the same nylon 6,6 and polyester behave in a qualita-
specimen. The change in strain range and hys- tively similar manner. The trends depicted
teresis between the first 0.1% of the lifetime schematically in Fig. 1 apply to both materials,
and failure is very small. and the cyclic fatigue lifetime can be predicted
The cyclic fatigue lifetime of polyester can be in each-case by the creep rupture based model.
predicted using the creep rupture based model, Essentially, both fibers must be elongated to a
as indicated in Fig. 10. The only significant critical strain to produce failure.
difference between the model prediction and It is the quantitative differences between the
the experimental data at 0.1 and 1 .O Hz master two fibers that must be considered in. potential
frequencies is a slight overestimate of the 1-s fatigue-sensitive applications (along with other
intercept; the slope of the prediction is in good effects such as stiffness and abrasion). Figure
agreement with the data. Any inaccuracies in 4 indicates that polyester is superior to nylon
the model prediction were found with nylon (1, under load control in dry conditions, with a n
2) to derive primarily from the creep rupture even greater advantage in seawater. The appli-
behavior of the yarns, which can be compli- cability of the creep rupture model allows this
cated because broken fibers only locally unload comparison to be made in more general terms
as a result of friction in the lightly interlaced of time to failure under sinusoidal loading (with-
yarn structure. Wet creep rupture conditions out test interruptions), as shown in Fig. 11 and
and cycling appeared to reduce this effect with expressed in the following relationships from
nylon, and predictions based on individual fiber curve fits:
creep rupture data were very accurate, as Nylon 6,6 Dry: P / P o = .98 - .Of353 log t
shown in Fig. 2. The polyester results (Fig. 10) (1)
are in acceptable agreement even when the pre- Nylon 6,6 Wet: P / P o = .98 - .lo08 log t (2)
diction is based on dry yarn creep rupture re- Polyester Dry: P / P o = .97 - .0436 log t
sults. (3)
Polyester Wet: P / P o = 1.02 - .0570 log t (4)
where P is the maximum load, P o is the initial
strength in a 1.O-s test, and t is the cumulative
time to failure in seconds. The number of cycles
to failure a t any frequency can be found by
multiplying t by the frequency in Hz.
There are a variety of qualifications for E q s
A li A A A A 1-4, the most obvious being that they apply
only to the yarns tested: DuPont 707, nylon 6,6,

i 2 5 4 1 fi
IOG cvctEs ( N I
Fig. 9. Hysteresis energy loss p e r cycle during cycling to
f a i l u r e of a polyester y a r n specimen a t 75% UTS maxi-
mum load, R = 0.1, a n d 1 .0 H z .


I I I 1 I I
LOG iitii i o r n i i I \it Fig. 1 1 . Cumulative time tofaiture of nylon 6,6and poly-
Fig. 10. Cyclicf a t i g u e d a t af o r polyester yarns compared ester yarns under cyclic sine-wavef a t i g u e loading (inde-
w i t h creep rupture b a s e d theoretical prediction. pendent of frequency, R = 0.1).

J . F. Mandell, M. G. Steckel, S.-S. Chung, and M. C.Kenney

and DuPont D 608 polyester. The greatest vari- Table 2. Hysteresis Energy of Nylon and Polyester Yarns at
Various Frequencies [from Ref. 71.’
ation in other similar nylon and polyester fibers
may be in the surface finish, which has little Nylon Polyester
effect on these results (7),but may have a great Hysteresis Hysteresis
Freq (Hz) Period Is) J) (10-3 J)
effect on properties such as abrasion resist-
ance, which is important in rope (as distinct 0.00028 3600 14.0 1.20
from yarn) fatigue (6).Other fibers and finishes 0.0021 480 14.0 0.76
currently are being studied in this program. The 0.033 30 13.0 1.4
0.13 8 13.0 0.99
dry condition is at typical ambient humidities, 1.o 1 8.9 0.75
with similar data found for nylon 6,6 at a con- 5.0 0.2 3.0 0.46
trolled 65%relative humidity (2).The wet con- 6.2 0.16 3.2 0.58
dition appears to apply to a wide range of *Cycling from 1% to 20% of ultimate tensile load (as measured in 1-Hz ramp test)
aqueous solutions for nylon (21, but does not under dry conditions. Measurements made on one specimen of each material after
preconditioning for several hundred cycles, with further preconditioning at each
include solutions such as strong acids (lo), frequency before measurements were made.
which may attack the fibers. E q u a t i o n s 1-4
have been tested for frequencies of 0.1 to 20 Hz during the test. Both the absolute and relative
for the nylon and 0.1 to 1 .O Hz for the polyester; findings for nylon and polyester could change
although a stress ratio of 0.1 was used in most if tests were run under fixed extension limits,
experimental confirmations, the equations ap- which may better represent some marine rope
pear to be approximately correct for the entire applications. Fixed extension limits would gen-
tension-tension R range of 0.0 to 1.0, as tested erate relatively higher stresses in the stiffer
for nylon ( 1 ) and suggested for polyester in Fig. polyester fibers, so that the greater fatigue re-
5. While these equations have been shown to sistance and lower hysteresis of the polyester
correlate with large rope fatigue test results under load control might not be observed under
under certain loading conditions, particularly strain control. This tendency is evident in the
high relative loads (6),many potential compli- results given in Re$ 13.
cations that may occur in rope applications
have been ignored, including fiber shrinkage, CONCLUSIONS
abrasion, transverse compression, long un- Results of cyclic fatigue tests on DuPont 707,
loaded recovery periods, photochemical degra- nylon 6,6, and DuPont D608 polyester yarns
dation, hysteretic heating (ropes have reduced show qualitatively similar creep-dominated be-
heat transfer and increased hysteresis frum havior for both. The polyester has superior fa-
structural effects), and temperatures other than tigue resistance, particularly under wet condi-
the 20-25°C test range. tions, because of its greater creep rupture resis-
Studies of the failure modes of individual fi- tance. The nylon shows about 10 times greater
bers indicate a tendency for some axial splitting hysteresis energy absorption at comparable
at low stresses with the nylon 6,6 under both (low) cyclic load levels, lower stiffness, and
creep and cyclic loading, but no effect on the slightly greater strain to failure. While the poly-
lifetime was evident; polyester failures were all ester is clearly more fatigue resistant in simple
transverse to the fiber axis (1).Other studies of laboratory yarn tests, the proper choice of a
nylon fibers at higher frequency (50 Hz) have rope fiber and surface finish also requires con-
reported a transition in mode from transverse sideration of the many additional parameters
to axial splitting under low load and low R value and possible failure modes inherent in typical
conditions (11 , 12). marine rope deployments.
Quantitative differences between nylon and
polyester are also evident in the cyclic stress- ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
strain behavior. As shown in Fig. 3, the D 608 This research is part of a broad study of the
polyester has a higher modulus, particularly deterioration of synthetic marine rope sup-
under wet conditions, and slightly lower strain ported by the Naval Sea Systems Command
to failure. The greater creep resistance of the through the MIT Sea Grant Program, Mr. George
polyester is reflected in a considerably lower Prentice is the Navy’s technical liaison person
hysteresis energy at a comparable relative load on the project. Acknowledgment is also made of
range, as shown in Table 2. While the hyster- the considerable practical experience and ad-
esis energy for both the nylon and the polyester vice that has been given to the MIT Synthetic
decrease gradually as the frequency increases, Rope Program by the Navy’s Man-made Fiber
the values for polyester are about 10 times Rope Technical Advisory Group.
lower than for the nylon. (The considerable
scatter is due to limited precision in the data REFERENCES
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2. M. C. Kenney, J. F. Mandell, and F. J. McGarry, J.
to typical ropes, where structural hysteresis can M u t e r . Sci., 20, 2060 (1985).
be the dominant factor (6). 3. H. Crawford and L. M. McTernan, in “Proc. Offshore
The results given here are for cycling between Technology Conference,” Paper 4635, pp. 455-466,
fixed load limits, with the yarn allowed to creep Houston [ 1983).

Fatigue and Environmental Resistance of Polyester and Nylon Fibers
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