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A study of the shear behaviour of CFRP strengthened beams

incorporating a shear plane

W. Al-Juboori and Dr. L. Weekes

The contribution of CFRP to the shear behaviour of reinforced concrete beams has been the
subject of much recent and current research. This paper presents an experimental and
numerical study of beams strengthened using CFRP across a shear plane which has been
incorporated. The shear plane represents a pre-cracked scenario, and the results demonstrate
clearly the effect of the orientation of the carbon fibre. The numerical finite element studies
(using ANSYS ver. 12) corroborate these results using a truss analogy in the modelling, and
the technique employed is suggested for use in further studies. It has been found that the
results provide insight into the effects of the orientation of the CFRP, and the incorporation of
a predetermined shear crack provides a clear understanding of the contribution to shear


The increase in service loads on structural elements requires the strength of these elements to
be upgraded to meet the new requirements. In certain situations, it may not be economically
feasible to replace an outdated structure with a new one, and design and construction of a
new structure to replace the existing one is quite often not an attractive economic solution. In
addition, the structural elements may be subjected to aggressive environmental conditions.
Therefore the maintenance of serviceability and strength of a particular structure throughout
its life can be one of a number of problems facing the structural engineer. A potential solution
is the use of new technologies to upgrade and strengthen the deficient structures. In
addressing the need to develop economic and efficient methods to upgrade, repair, or
strengthen existing reinforced concrete structures, Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) materials
have been found to be successful at flexural strengthening, shear strengthening and ductility
enhancement of concrete structures [1-4]. External reinforcement is a promising, and
sometimes the only, alternative to partial demolition and replacement of many of these
structures. Externally bonded FRP plates increase the load carrying capacity with a negligible
increase in construction depth and weight of the existing structures.

This paper focuses on shear strengthening using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP).
The understanding of concrete structures designed for strengthening in shear is still an area
where uniform design rules do not exist or are treated very briefly. The reason for this is
probably that shear failure is a complicated mechanism [3]. When a strengthening material is
applied to the concrete, the shear mechanism will be even more complicated. To be able to
understand the behaviour of CFRP shear strengthened structures, theoretical as well as
experimental studies are needed. This is also important if the CFRP strengthening method is
to reach full acceptance worldwide. Normal RC design dictates that failure occurs in a
controlled ductile flexural mode rather than through brittle shearing. In addition, shear failure
of reinforced concrete beams can occur suddenly without any advance warning. Furthermore,
many existing RC beams have been found to be deficient in shear strength and need to be
strengthened. Several factors need to be considered in shear deficient structures such as lack
of shear reinforcement or reduction in steel area due to corrosion, construction faults, old
design codes, and increased service load beyond the original design. The amount and weight
of traffic has increased significantly since most bridges were built, and are well in excess of
those envisaged by their designers. Since 1999, the maximum allowable gross vehicle weight
within the UK has increased from 38 tonnes to 40 tonnes and it is likely that a further
increase to 44 tonnes will occur sometime in the near future. As a result there has been much
research in recent years to improve our understanding of the contribution of the CFRP
strengthening and to develop new analysis methods.
In traditional shear design [4-7] the nominal shear strength of an RC section,
the nominal shear strengths of concrete,

is the sum of

(for a cracked section this depends on the dowel

action of the longitudinal reinforcement, the diagonal tensile strength of the un-cracked part
of the concrete and the aggregate interlocking effect) and steel shear reinforcement,

. For

beams strengthened with externally bonded FRP reinforcement, the shear strength may be
computed by the addition of a third term to account of the FRP contribution,

. This is

expressed as follows:

To use externally bonded FRP reinforcement in design or retrofit, it is necessary to be able to

predict its contribution to the ultimate shear strength. Therefore, this study is focused on the

contribution from the composite,

. The general equation to account for the shear

contribution of the FRP shear reinforcement of almost existing design methods is given by:


is the bonded area of CFRP sheets

is the effective stress of CFRP

sheets at rupture,

is the depth of CFRP reinforcement (usually equal to

section and

for T-sections),

Figure 1, and

for rectangular

the spacing and the effective depth of CFRP (see

is nominal concrete compressive strength (MPa). Note that for continuous

vertical shear reinforcement, the spacing of the strip,

, and the width of the strip,

, are


Figure 1.Dimensions used to define the area of FRP. (a) Vertical oriented FRP strips. (b) Inclined

Proposed Model

The objective of this research is to develop a new approach to examining the shear
performance and contribution of CFRP, using a simplified experimental model which allows
a parametric study of shear strengthening. The arrangement is effectively a simulation of a
beam subject to three points loading. The model is illustrated in Figure 2 and comprises two
separate parts (the double inclined lines CD represent the boundary surface between the two).
The purpose of this was to provide a shear failure plane. This model has some specific
characteristics which can be explained as follows:

Incorporating the shear plane allows the effect of the contribution of the bonded material
to be isolated.

The size of the model allows many configurations to be examined.


The position of the shear 'crack', which is provided by the boundary surface between the
two parts, is constant. This facilitates focusing on the failure of CFRP and hence selects
the best arrangement for any instrumentation.

As a result of this model arrangement, parametric studies are more easily addressed,
providing a straightforward means of understanding easy way to understand the behaviour
of CFRP sheets. This in turn will lead to clear theoretical analysis for homogeneous
materials such as aluminium and allow the study to focus on the behaviour of CFRP


Figure 2 Model to examine the shear performance and contribution of CFRP.

Experimental Programme

3.1 Material properties

Before any tests could begin, a series of laboratory test were devised to determine material
properties of aluminium, CFRP, and adhesive. These need to be known to simulate the model
using the FE method (laboratory tests were derived to determine the common properties).
The first test was a tensile test (similar to dog bone tests as shown in Figure 3) which was
required to find the modulus of elasticity and Poissons ratio for aluminium. In this test, four
resistance strain gauges were used to check the strain. As shown in Photograph 1, the gauges
were positioned both horizontally and vertically on each side of the test specimen.
The results of this test are shown in Figure 4. From these results the modulus of elasticity for
the sample of the aluminium was Ex = Ey = 64.4 GPa and the Poissons ratio was n = 0.3. As
the maximum capacity of the machine was 50 kN, the sample did not initially fail, therefore a
retest in a tensile machine of greater capacity was used to achieve the eventual fracture load
of 55.5 kN.

Photograph 1 Aluminium tensile test (dog bone ). (A) The sample in the machine . (B) The
sample after eventual fracture.

Figure 3 Dimension of the aluminium dog bone (in mm)

Figure 4 Stress-strain curves of aluminium sample from dog bone test

The second important step towards developing a three-dimensional finite element

representation for the model in this test was to find the relationship between the slip
and the local bond stress. Figure 5 shows the detail of the bond test. Two pieces of
aluminium were bonded together using two sheets of CFRP on both sides of the
specimen (200 x 43.4 mm2). Material properties for the unidirectional CFRP sheets
were based upon information supplied by [Weber]. The nominal thickness, t f , of the
carbon fibres contained in the FRP sheet was equal to 0.1178 mm, and the tensile
strength and the Youngs modulus of the composite sheet based on the fibre thickness
were equal to 3900 MPa and 240 GPa, respectively (same material property of CFRP
sheet which was used for aluminium beam test). After the two surfaces of aluminium
were cleaned, the epoxy resin used consists of two components supplied by Weber
[8]. The epoxy resin used has an ultimate tensile strength of 19 MPa and an elastic
modulus of 10 GPa.

Figure 5 Schematic of the bond test.

The specimen was mounted in a tensile testing machine and subjected to pure tensile
force until total failure of the bonded system took place as a result of direct shear on
the laminates. It was not possible, however, to avoid a slight moment caused by a very
small eccentricity between the top and bottom grips. The results of this test are
illustrated in Figure 6 (there are four curves in this Figure). Each curve represents the
values of the displacement from each gauge. As shown in Figure 5, there are two
Eddy current gauges and two LVDT gauges. These gauges should in theory yield
similar results, but, due to the eccentricity of the load and the gauges, there are slight
differences in the results. The average of these results was taken to obtain a more

accurate load-slip relationship. This relationship was used to simulate the bond
strength between the CFRP sheet and aluminium sections in the finite element

Figure 6 The bond test results between CFRP sheet and aluminium section.


Test set-up
This study comprised physical tests on an aluminium beam consisting of two separate
parts. The total span of the beam model was 13.5 inch (342.9mm), and its cross-section
was rectangular (3 inch (76.2mm) wide and 6 inch (152.4mm) deep). The cross-section
was hollow, as illustrated in Figure 7(a). Before testing the aluminium beams, initial
studies using timber beams were conducted to examine the relative geometric movement
of the two separate parts of the model (which effectively have a shear plane already
incorporated). The two parts were held together initially with duct tape (width 50 mm, cut
into strips) to provide insight into how load might distribute in any externally bonded
material. The detail of support B is shown in Figure 7(b).









(a) The dimension of aluminium model (dimensions are in mm).

(b) Three dimension of aluminium model

Figure 7 Representation of the aluminium model

The initial experiments were carried out for checking of the instrumentation only. Again,
the aluminium sections were bonded together using duct tape. Photograph 2 illustrates the
checking test before application of the load. Four linear variable differential transducer
(LVDTs) were used in these tests to measure the vertical and horizontal movement of the
aluminium parts as shown in Figure 8. Further experimental tests in this paper utilize the
same aluminium model with CFRP. The aim of these was to simulate the shear
contribution of CFRP, which is used to strengthen the new model, and also to compare
this model with finite element models created using the commercially available finite
element analysis package ANSYS ver12.

Photograph 4 Initial test of the aluminium model for verification.







Figure 8 Schematic representation of test set-up for specimen with instrumentation (dimensions
are in mm).

Eight tests were carried out for the aluminium model strengthened by CFRP as follows
(see Figure 9 and Photograph 3):

Four specimens, AC1, AC2, AC3, and AC4 were strengthened with an inclined
sheet of CFRP at 45o

Two specimens, AV1, and AV2 were strengthened with a vertical sheet of CFRP

Two specimens, AH1, and AH2 were strengthened with a horizontal sheet of



(a) Tape

(b) Incline direction {AC1, AC2, AC3, and AC4}

(c ) Vertical direction {AV1, and AV2}

(d) Horizontal direction {AhH1, and AH2}

Figure 9 Samples of aluminium model with different orientations.

Photograph 3 Aluminium specimens under load application. (A) Specimen AC1. (B) Specimen

Test results and discussion

The load deflection curves for all of the tested beams are shown in Figures 10. As
expected, the load capacity of control beam (without any CFRP strengthening) is equal to
zero. From observation of the Figures, it can be seen that the orientation of CFRP with an
angle of 45o provides the optimum strength. For orientation of CFRP with an angle of 45o,
the test was repeated four times to determine the repeatability of the results. For all
beams, the load decreased abruptly after reaching the peak load because almost all cases
failed due to de-bonding (with the exception of horizontal orientation). For beams AH1
and AH2 (beams with horizontal orientation of CFRP), the load was very low when
compared with other samples. The failure for these two beams was as a result of the
separation between fibres of the sheet. The capacity of the sample with horizontal
orientation was approximately 10 kN, and with vertical orientation approximately 37 kN.
In contrast, the sample with a 45o angle of CFRP sheet produced results between 50 and
60 kN. All these values present the sole contribution of CFRP because the sample without
any strengthening could not carry any load. In general, the results for same orientation
had similar behaviour. Slight differences in the test conditions produced some slight
variations in the test results, as can be seen from the data of AV2 with vertical orientation
of CFRP sheets (initial test) and AC2 (reload). However, in general good repeatability
was demonstrated. Figure 11 shows the general comparison between the three cases of
orientation on the same scale. The modes of the failure for some specimens are illustrated

in Photograph 4. If we examine the failure of specimens in Photograph 6, it appears

complex. Sheets of CFRP were distorted in a few cases, but the general failure was
identified as de-bonding. The previous studies have established clearly that such
strengthened beams fail in shear mainly due to one of two modes: FRP rupture or debonding [7]. Therefore, the main failure of samples was de-bonding, and there was
rupture failure in a limited area of CFRP sheets for some specimens, as shown in
Photograph 4 (A) and (B).

Figure 10 Load-Displacement relationship for vertical orientation of CFRP

Figure 11 Load-Displacement relationship for different orientations of CFRP


Photograph 4 Failure models of some specimens. (A) Specimen AC2. (B) Specimen AC3. (C)
Specimen AV1. (D) Specimen AV2. (E) Specimen AH1. (F) Specimen AH2.

Numerical analysis

The Finite Element method is a numerical method which can approximate and solve complex
structural problems to within acceptable boundaries. Finite element analysis was first
developed by the aircraft industry to predict the behaviour of metals forming for wings. The
ANSYS finite element program has been comprehensively developed to the extent that it has
applications across the whole engineering spectrum [9]. In particular, civil engineers are
frequently interested in modelling materials such as steel and concrete, the latter requiring
complex methodology in its representation. As concrete is an orthotropic material that
exhibits nonlinear behaviour during loading, this behaviour is numerically implemented in
ANSYS [10]. A number of previous researchers have used the finite element method to
provide insight into the behaviour of the FRP-concrete bonded joints, and CFRP-strengthened

RC beams. Hemmaty et al. [11] considered a nonlinear adherence-shear law based on the
experimental studies between concrete and reinforcement in the modelling of reinforced
concrete elements. While modelling the adherence-shear relationship, they used a nonlinear
spring/damper element COMBIN39 (element in ANSYS) for their main modelling. Also, Lu
et al. in 2009 [12] used COMBIN39 to model the interface between the FRP elements and the
supports. Lu et al. [12] presented a numerical study of the FRP stress distribution at debonding failure in U-jacketed or side-bonded beams using a rigorous FRP-to-concrete bond
slip model and assuming several different crack width distributions. This element type
COMBIN39 is used in the present study. Huyse et. al. [13] presented a paper concerning
analysis of reinforced concrete structures using the ANSYS nonlinear concrete model. This
paper considers the practical application of nonlinear models in the analysis of reinforced
concrete structures. The results of some analyses performed using the reinforced concrete
model of ANSYS are presented and discussed. The differences observed in the response of
the same reinforced concrete beam, as some variations are made in a material model that is
always basically the same, are emphasized. The consequences of small changes in modelling
are discussed and it is shown that satisfactory results may be obtained from relatively simple
and limited models.
Santhakumar et. al. in 2004 [14] presented a numerical study to simulate the behaviour of
retrofitted reinforced concrete beams strengthened with CFRP laminates using ANSYS. The
effect of retrofitting on un-cracked and pre-cracked reinforced concrete beams was studied,
and the behaviour of beams obtained from the numerical study showed good agreement with
the experimental data. There was no significant difference in behaviour between the uncracked and pre-cracked retrofitted beams. Al-Mahaidi et al. [15] studied the behaviour of
three shear deficient T-beams strengthened using web-bonded CFRP plate. The experimental
results have shown that repairing the beams with CFRP strips enhances their shear capacity.
The increase in strength ranged between 68% and 87%. Nonlinear finite element modelling
and analysis with DIANA was used to investigate the behaviour of these beams, assuming
plane stress conditions and perfect bond between the concrete surface and the web bonded
CFRP strips. It was shown that finite element analysis was capable of predicting the ultimate
strength, stiffness of the beams and strain levels in CFRP plates with reasonable accuracy.
The cracking patterns and crack inclinations produced by the finite element model were also
comparable to the patterns observed from testing. Fanning [16] presented nonlinear models
for reinforced and post-tensioned concrete beams. The finite element software used (ANSYS)

included dedicated numerical models for the nonlinear response of concrete under loading.
These models usually included a smeared crack analogy to account for the relatively poor
tensile strength of concrete, a plasticity algorithm to facilitate concrete crushing in
compression regions, and a method of specifying the amount, the distribution and the
orientation of any internal reinforcement. The numerical model adopted by ANSYS is
discussed in this paper. Appropriate numerical modelling strategies are recommended and
comparisons with experimental load-deflection responses are discussed for ordinary
reinforced concrete beams and for post-tensioned concrete T-beams.
The finite element modelling of experimental specimens using ANSYS Ver.12 is presented
here. The ultimate purpose of a finite element analysis is to recreate mathematically the
behaviour of an actual engineering system. Three and two dimensional nonlinear finite
element analysis is used here to simulate the performance of the experimental model.
The model in this study comprised three materials (aluminium, CFRP, and adhesive). By
taking advantage of the symmetry of the model, a half of the full section was used for
modelling. This approach reduced computational time and computer disk space requirements
significantly. The half of the entire model is shown in Figure 12.
Aluminium section
adhesive (0.1 mm)
CFRP (0.167 mm)



Figure 12 Use of a half (aluminium model). (a) Three-dimension view. (b) Modified view for the

In the FE models, SOLID45 elements were used to model the aluminium section, as shown in
Figure 12. SHELL63 elements represent the CFRP sheet. The material properties which were
supplied by the material tests and the manufacturer details Weber [8] were used to model the
CFRP sheet as an orthotropic shell element with the following orthotropic properties:

The elastic modulus in the fibre direction Ey= 240 GPa

The elastic modulus in perpendicular direction to the fibre Ex= Ez = 31 GPa

The Poissons ratios


Figure 13 shows a representation of the adhesive which was used to bond the CFRP sheet
with the aluminium section. A three dimensional grid of COMBIN39 elements was used to
simulate the 0.1 mm thickness of adhesive layer. The experimental results of the bond test
between the aluminium and CFRP were used in the finite element model (input as real
constants of the COMBIN39 elements). Eight COMBIN39 elements in all were used to
simulate the bond of one SHELL63 element to an aluminium SOLID45 element. Four
COMBIN39 elements were connected orthogonally (toward the direction of the adhesive)
from the four nodes of the SHELL63 element to another four nodes on the aluminium
section. The other four COMBIN39 elements were arranged diagonally to connect the same
four nodes of the SHELL63 element to a central node on the aluminium body, located under
the centre of SHELL63 element as shown in Figure 13(b). This way of simulating the bond
between the CFRP and the aluminium section provided comparable theoretical behaviour to
actual physical behaviour and is addressed later in this section. The result of the bond test
(see Figure 6) between the CFRP sheet and aluminium section were used for the real constant
of the COMBIN39 elements. In addition, the CONTA178 elements bond the two pieces of
aluminium to provide the boundary conditions at the sloping interface.

Figure 13 Grid of COMBIN39 elements. (a) Top view of the simulated system of CFRP and adhesive
(sixteen SHELL63 elements and forty-one COMBIN39 elements) . (b) 3D view of individual
SHELL63 element with eight COMBIN39 elements.


Nonlinear analysis was invoked in these FE models by the nature of the elements used. The
numerical results of the aluminium model were then compared with the physical model. It
was then verified that the proposed numerical model can be used to analyze the two pieces of
aluminium which are bonded together by the CFRP sheets. Figure 14 shows the comparison
of deflection (at gauge No. V2, see Figure 11) with theoretical results from ANSYS.
Locations of the LVDT gauges are shown in Figure 8.

Figure 14 Load-displacement relationships for comparison between the experimental and analytical
results for CFRP oriented at (a) with 90o. (b) with 0o (c) with 45o to the longitudinal axis.

In general, the load-displacement plots for all cases of orientation from the FE analysis agree
exceptionally well with experimental data. The numerical results of ANSYS show similar
behaviour to experimental results, especially in the case of the horizontal orientation of
To focus solely on the effect of CFRP orientation, a simple FE model was created comprising
BEAM3 elements. This model is a 2-D model and the BEAM3 elements form the two parts
of the aluminium sections (total number of BEAM3 is 267). These two groups of BEAM3
elements are bonded together by four SHELL63 elements. Also the boundary conditions for

the sloping interface were provided using five CONTA178 elements in addition to the
supports. Near the boundary surface the BEAM3 elements were arranged in a novel way to
provide for different orientations of CFRP, as shown in Figure 15.





Figure 15 Simple FE models with different orientation of CFRP (a) with 90o, (b) with 0o (c) with 45o,
(d) with 55o.

Figure 16 shows the comparison of the results for different orientations of CFRP. Full
connection between SHELL63 and BEAM3 was assumed, hence the linear behaviour seen
from the graphs. It is easy to observe that the behaviour of CFRP sheet is influenced by the
orientation of the fibre. The strengthening with an orientation angle of 55o (between the
principal CFRP fibres direction and the longitudinal axis of the aluminium section) was
greater than the strengthening with 90o, 45o, and 0o orientation angles. So the angle of 55o
provided the greatest capacity, even though the boundary surface between the two pieces of
aluminium (simulating a crack between them) was at a 45o angle. This infers that the
behaviour of CFRP does not just depend on the angle of shear crack but also on the
differential slip between the two parts of the beam which are on either side of this crack. This
conclusion illustrated that the existing idealizations deal with CFRP in an analogous way to
steel reinforcement behaviour. Therefore, the design equations of CFRP are not accurate,
especially for orientation.


Figure 16 Load-displacement with different orientation of CFRP

(a) FE models strengthening with 90o degree oriented CFRP after failure

(b) Load-displacement for the horizontal and vertical displacement

Figure 17 Comparison between the horizontal and vertical displacement for same point (v2)

Figure 17 shows the comparison between the horizontal and vertical displacement at the
bottom of the aluminium section for the vertical orientation case (at the same point as gauge
V2, as shown in Figure 8). Figure 17 (b) illustrates that the difference between the horizontal

and vertical displacement is limited. Therefore the addition of a horizontal strip at the bottom
of the section, as shown in Figure 18(a), led to an increase of the stiffness, as shown in Figure

(a) Additional horizontal strip at the bottom of the section

(b) Comparison of different techniques.

Figure 18 Vertical orientation with additional horizontal strip (new technique)

The conceptual model presented, through physical testing, has provided promising insight
into the contribution of FRP to shear strengthening in beams. The incorporation of a
boundary plane to represent a pre-cracked condition has provided parameter isolation
which is necessary to identify the strength contribution solely of the FRP. This work
provides initial research into the shear contribution of the FRP to reinforced concrete
beams, and the model has been used successfully both in physical experiments conducted
on RC beam samples and analytical (FE) modelling.The numerical work has specifically
shown that the behaviour of CFRP is dependent on the angle of the shear crack and also

on the differential slip between the two segments of the beam which flank the crack. It is
envisaged that the FE modelling techniques employed will be further developed for future

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