You are on page 1of 17


4.1 Matrix materials
Polymers are the most used for matrix than metal or ceramics. They are very poor
inductors of heat and electricity and are generally more resistant to ceramicals than
metals. Polymers are giant chain like structures of molecules with conveniently bonded
carbon atom forming the backbone of chain. The process of making large molecules
(polymers) from small ones (monometers) is called polymerization.

4.1.1 Functions of the matrix phase
1) It binds the fibers together and acts as a medium by which an externally applied
stress is transmitted and distributed to the fibers; only a very small proportion of
an applied load is sustained by the matrix phase.
2) The matrix material should be ductile.
3) The matrix should protect the individual fibers from fiber damage as a result of
mechanical abrasion and chemical corrosion with environment.
4) The matrix separates the fiber layers and by the virtue of its relative softness,

prevents crack propagation from fiber which otherwise may lead to premature
failure of the composite. The adhesive bonding force between the fiber pullout and
adequate bonding is essential for the effective transmittance of stress from weak
matrix to the strong reinforcement.

which initiate the chemical reaction that cause the resin to undergo phase transformation from liquid to solid. . The most commonly catalyst is benzoyl peroxide. readily soluble in monomeric styrene storable for long periods of the time without the loss of activity and stable at room temperature. 2) Good adhesive properties. required working or pot life and the gel time. the curing temperature. accelerators.2 Catalyst and Accelerators Catalysts are materials. Cobalt naphtha late is used as accelerator. easy to handle. 4) Good resistance to environmental degradation. which is efficient.25 4. The selection of proper catalyst and amount to use for applications depends on the resin. systems are available for use with polymers resin. 3) Good toughness properties.3 Resin systems Any resin system for use in a composite material will require the following properties 1) Good mechanical properties. The pot life and gel time depends upon the quantity of accelerator and catalyst taken. 4. Accelerator increases the speed of the catalytic action. A wide range of catalysts.

the s-glass fiber. The figure below gives the strain to failure for e-glass. This means that the resin is initially stiff but at the same time will not suffer from brittle failure. aramid and high-strength grade carbon fibers on their own.26 4. high stiffness and a high strain to failure. with an elongation to break of 5.3%. the resin must be able to deform to at least the same extent as the fiber.1 Mechanical properties of the resin system Figure 4. The curve for this resin shows high ultimate strength. for the full mechanical properties of the fiber component to be achieved. will require a resin with an elongation to break of at least this value to achieve maximum tensile properties.3.1: Stress-strain curve for an ideal resin system The figure below shows the stress / strain curve for an “ideal” resin system. It should also be noted that when a composite is loaded in tension. Here it can be seen that. . for example. s-glass.

This will ensure that the loads are transferred efficiently and will prevent cracking or fiber / resin debonding when stressed. .3.2: Selection criteria for the ideal resin system for a fiber 4. but in a composite this can be hard to measure accurately. which cracks easily. it is important to match this property to the elongation of the fiber reinforcement. a resin system with a low strain to failure will tend to create a brittle composite. Conversely. 4.3 Toughness properties of the resin system Toughness is a measure of a material’s resistance to crack propagation. However.27 Figure 4.2 Adhesive properties of the resin system High adhesion between resin and reinforcement fibers is necessary for any resin system.3. the stress /strain curve of the resin system on its own provides some indication of the material’s toughness. Generally the more deformation the resin will accept before failure the tougher and more crackresistant the material will be.

water and other aggressive substances. are formed from a chemical reaction in situ. are properties essential to any resin system. These properties are particularly important for use in a marine environment. Polymers can be classified under two types thermoplastic and thermosetting according to the effect of heat on their properties. thermo sets’. although above a certain temperature their mechanical properties .man made polymers are generally called ‘synthetic resins’ or simply ‘resins’. Once cured. soften with heating and eventually melt. Other thermosetting resins such as polyester and epoxy. Typical thermoplastics include nylon.4 Environmental properties of the resin system Good resistance to the environment. or. such as phenolic resins. thermo sets will not become liquid again if heated. chopped fibers such as glass.3. This process of crossing the softening or melting point on the temperature scale can be repeated as often as desired without any appreciable effect on the material properties in either state. together with an ability to withstand constant stress cycling. 4. All polymers exhibit an important common property in that they are composed of long chain like molecules consisting of many simple repeating units . Thermoplastics. Thermosetting materials. although usually only with short. volatile substances are produced as by-products. where the resin and hardener or resin and catalyst are mixed and then undergo a nonreversible chemical reaction to form a hard. by mechanisms that do not produce any volatile by products and thus are much easier to process.28 4.4 Resin types The resins that are used in the fiber-reinforced composites can also be referred to as ‘polymers’. polypropylene and abs. and these can be reinforced. infusible product. hardening again with cooling. In some thermo sets. like metals.

or simply as ‘polyesters’. amorphous polymer. These products are generally a catalyst. It is usual to refer to unsaturated polyester resins as ‘polyester resins’. particularly in the marine industry. There is a whole range of polyesters made from different acids. Above the Tg. Polyester resins are of the ‘unsaturated’ type. yachts and workboats built in composites make use of this resin system. Although there are many different types of resin in use in the composite industry. Other properties such as water resistance and color stability also reduce markedly above the resin’s Tg.4. vinyl ester and epoxy. glycols and monomers. capable of being cured from a liquid or solid state when subject to the right conditions.29 will change significantly. namely polyester. Polyester resin is the preferred material in marine industries marine due to its superior water resistance. and as a result the compressive and shear strength of the composite does too. For use in molding polyester resin requires the addition of several ancillary products.1 Polyester resins Polyester resins are the most widely used resin systems. This temperature is known as the glass transition temperature (Tg). its degree of cure and whether it was mixed correctly. Above the Tg properties such as resin modulus drop sharply. the majority of structural parts are made with three main types. By far the majority of dinghies. all having varying properties. an accelerator and additives such as pigments and fillers. Polyester resin is the preferred material in marine industries marine due to its superior. This change is reversible on cooling back below the Tg. and varies widely according to the particular resin system used. . the molecular structure of the thermo set changes from that of a rigid crystalline polymer to a more flexible. Unsaturated polyester resin is a thermo set. 4.

depending on the choice of curing agent.2 Epoxy resins The large family of epoxy resins represents some of the highest performance resins of those available at this time. One of the most advantageous properties of epoxies is their low shrinkage during cure. Epoxies generally out-perform most other resin types in terms of mechanical properties and resistance to environmental degradation. Figure 4.4. As a laminating resins their increased adhesive properties and resistance to water degradation make these resins ideal for use in applications such as boat building. epoxy resins have a number of useful properties. Epoxy resins are easily and quickly cured at any temperature from 5ºc to 150ºc. High adhesive strength and high mechanical . Here epoxies are widely used as a primary construction material for high-performance boats or as a secondary application to sheath a hull or replace water-degraded polyester resins and gel coats.2-epoxy’. the simplest epoxy is a threemember ring structure known by the term ‘alpha-epoxy’ or ‘1. The idealized chemical structure is shown in the figure below and is the most easily identified characteristic of any more complex epoxy molecule.30 4. which minimizes fabric ‘print-through’. which leads to their almost exclusive use in aircraft components.3: Idealized chemical structure of a simple epoxy (ethylene oxide) Usually identifiable by their characteristic amber or brown coloring. Both the liquid resin and the curing agents form low viscosity easily processed systems. The term ‘epoxy’ refers to a chemical group consisting of an oxygen atom bonded to two carbon atoms that are already bonded in some way. and internal stresses.

In the epoxy resin. epoxy groups instead of ester groups form these reactive sites. and are frequently found in applications such as pipelines and chemical storage tanks. as well as laminating resins for a variety of industrial applications. varnishes and paints. These ester groups are susceptible to water degradation by hydrolysis which means that vinylesters exhibit better resistance to water and many other chemicals than their polyester counterparts. these being positioned only at the ends of the molecular chains. sealants. Note the positions of the ester groups and the reactive sites (C* = C*) within the molecular chain. however. . The epoxy molecule also contains two ring groups at its center which are able to absorb both mechanical and thermal stresses better than linear groups and therefore give the epoxy resin very good stiffness. Epoxies find uses as adhesives. The figure below shows the idealised chemical structure of a typical vinylester.3 Vinyl Ester Resins Vinylester resins are similar in their molecular structure to polyesters. The absence of ester groups means that the epoxy resin has particularly good water resistance. but differ primarily in the location of their reactive sites. casting compounds. toughness and heat resistant properties. 4.4. The vinylester molecule also features fewer ester groups. Epoxy resins are formed from a long chain molecular structure similar to vinyl ester with reactive sites at either end. As the whole length of the molecular chain is available to absorb shock loadings this makes vinylester resins tougher and more resilient than polyesters. caulking compounds.31 properties are also enhanced by high electrical insulation and good chemical résistance.

although to really achieve these properties the resin usually needs to have an elevated temperature postcure.32 Figure 4. . represented below. such as in a boat hull. . The material is therefore sometimes used as a barrier or 'skin' coat for a polyester laminate that is to be immersed in water. the resin is less prone to damage by hydrolysis. can be compared to the schematic representation of polyester shown previously where the difference in the location of the reactive sites can be clearly seen: With the reduced number of ester groups in a vinylester when compared to a polyester.4: Idealized chemical structure of vinylester The molecular chains of vinylester. The cured molecular structure of the vinylester also means that it tends to be tougher than a polyester.

vinyl esters are not practical without additives. Typical structural matrix resins . Modulus (stiffness) is on a par . The next step up for toughness would be polyurethanes or epoxies. Best Processes Open Molding (Hand Lay-up/Spray-up). they are generally cut in styrene monomer for management as a liquid resin. Both polyester and vinyl ester resins will react and build in molecular weight to a solid waxy resin and be mostly unusable in that waxy state.000psi and flexural properties exceed 30.33 Vinyl esters provide excellent resistance to water. Molding conditions for vinyl esters are similar to those for polyesters. Technical Details Surface quality is not as good as with polyesters. about 500 centipoise when cut in styrene monomer. SMC/BMC. but less resistance to acids than polyesters. part specification (such as dimensional tolerance and physical properties) and production volume. As with polyesters. Normal viscosity for vinyl esters is less than polyester.slightly less . Consequently. RTM. Vinyl esters are stronger than polyesters and more resilient than epoxies. For example. which has a negative impact on surface quality. organic solvents and alkalis.000psi when using 28% glass reinforcement. The built-in toughness of vinyl esters makes smooth surfaces hard to accomplish.than polyesters because of the toughness built in to the backbone of the ester linkage. reinforcements and fillers. typical tensile properties in SMC start at approximately 15. The double bonded vinyl groups give the entire matrix a toughness that exceeds polyesters by about 2X depending on the test used. The double bonded nature creates shrinkage. The best process for your product is a function of your tooling budget.

1 547 Polyamide 137. Local impact resistance is very good because stress is efficiently transmitted between sandwich skins. the material exhibits excellent stiffness and bond strength.7 4. Stiffness and strength characteristics are much like aerospace honeycomb cores Although the static strength of balsa panels will generally be higher than the PVC foams. . In densities between 6 and 16 pounds ft3 (0.8 630 Polynylene 65.5 Core Materials 4.1 and 0.5.1 463 Bismaleimide 82. prismatic cells with a length (grain direction) that is approximately sixteen times the diameter (see Figure 2-7). impact energy absorption is lower.1 400 Resin Thermo sets Thermoplastic Table 4.5 4. End-grain balsa is available in sheet form for flat panel construction or in a scrim-backed block arrangement that conforms to complex curves.34 Tensile strength (Mpa) Tensile modulus (Mpa) Tg (k) Epoxy 103.1 Balsa End grain balsa's closed-cell structure consists of elongated.3 1.3 366 Polyetheretherketon 70.1: Typical structural matrix resins 4.9 4.4 4.25 gms/cm3).

00006" [Baltek Corporation] 4.5. fungi and decay. Polyurethane is often foamed in-place when used as a buoyancy material . Use is generally limited to buoyancy rather than structural applications. and polyurethane are very light (about 2 lbs/ft3) and resist water.2 Thermoset Foam Foamed plastics such as cellular cellulose acetate (CCA). B = Average Cell Diameter = .5: Balsa Cell Geometry with A = Average Cell Length = .025". C = Average Cell Wall Thickness = . 00126". These materials have very low mechanical properties and polystyrene will be attacked by polyester resin.35 Figure 4. polystyrene. These foams will not conform to complex curves.

cross-linking compounds and blowing agents. [2-2] The resulting material is thermoplastic.6: Hexagonal Honeycomb Ge.36 Figure 4. except in configurations where the foam is “blown” in place. Omega Chemical has introduced a sprayable syntactic core material called SprayCoreTM. The mixture is heated under pressure to initiate the cross-linking reaction and then submerged in hot water tanks to expand to the desired density.20 4.4 Cross Linked PVC Foams: Polyvinyl foam cores are manufactured by combining a polyvinyl copolymer with stabilizers.100 inches (as compared to . lightweight fluid mass. Material cost for a square foot of 3 8" material is approximately $2. Cell diameters range from .3 Syntactic Foams Syntactic foams are made by mixing hollow microspheres of glass.0013 inches for balsa). The system is being marketed as a replacement for core fabrics with superior physical properties.ometry 4. A number of .5. enabling the material to conform to compound curves of a hull. PVC foams have almost exclusively replaced urethane foams as a structural core material. curable.5.0100 to . The company claims that thicknesses of 3 8" can be achieved at densities between 30 and 43 lbs/ft3. epoxy and phenolic into fluid resin with additives and curing agents to form a moldable.plasticizers.

[2-3] Table 2-8 shows some of the physical properties of the core materials presented here.5.020 to . For Airex. As with the balsa products.® individual cell diameters range from . Figure 4. which allows significant displacements before failure. In comparison to the cross linked (non-linear) PVCs.080 inches.37 manufacturers market cross-linked PVC products to the marine industry in sheet form with densities ranging from 2 to 12 pounds per ft3. . solid sheets or scrim backed block construction configurations are available. Unique mechanical properties are a result of a non-connected molecular structure.7: Core Strengths and Moduli for Various Core Densities of Aramid Honeycomb 4.5 Linear PVC Foam: Airex® and Core-Cell® are examples of linear PVC foam core produced for the marine industry. static properties will be less favorable and impact will be better.

developed a product called C-Flex® in 1973 to help amateurs build a cost effective one-off hull. Other manufacturers have started to produce “bulking” products that are primarily used to build up laminate thickness .6 FRP Planking: Seemann Fiberglass. from inorganic vitreous fibers.38 4. 4. The self-supporting material will conform to compound curves. which eliminates the need for extensive longitudinal stringers on the male mold.5. low strength ply can produce premature cosmetic failures. Inc. A 18 inch variety of C-Flex® weighs about 12 pound dry and costs about $2. Hoechst Celanese has recently introduced a product called Trevira®. a spun-bound polyester produced by Lantor. One such product that is popular in the marine industry is Firet Core mat.00 per square foot.7 Core Fabrics: Various natural and synthetic materials are used to manufacture products to build up laminate thickness economically. which is a continuous filament polyester. the use of a Nonstructural thick ply near the laminate surface to eliminate print-through requires engineering forethought. The planking has more rigidity than PVC foam sheets. Although many manufacturers have had much success with such materials in the center of the laminate. Ozite produces a core fabric called CompozitexTM The manufacturer claims that a unique manufacturing process creates a mechanical fiber lock within the fabric. The continuous fibers seem to produce a fabric with superior mechanical properties. The planking consists of rigid fiberglass rods held together with unsaturated strands of continuous fiberglass rovings and a light fiberglass cloth. The high modulus.5. Typical application involves a set of male frames as a form.

Plywood is also sometimes used as a form for longitudinals. . especially in way of engine mounts. although fiberglass is generally viewed as merely a sheathing when used in conjunction with plywood.8 Plywood: Plywood should also be mentioned as a structural core material. Exceptions to this characterization include local reinforcements in way of hardware installations where plywood replaces a lighter density core to improve compression properties of the laminate. which can cause swelling and subsequent delamination. Better process control in the manufacture of newer marine grade plywood should diminish this problem. it a poor bonding surface.5. The technique of laminating numerous thin plies of wood developed by the Gougeon Brothers and known as wood epoxy saturation technique (WEST ® System) eliminates many of the shortcomings involved with using wood in composite structures. the low strength and low strain characteristics of plywood can lead to premature failures when used as a core with thin skins. The uneven surface of plywood can make Also. has precipitated a decline in the use of wood in conjunction with FRP. Concern over the continued propensity for wood to absorb moisture in a maritime environment.39 4.

40 .