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Phases in a Composite

Continuous phase
Dispersed phase
An interfacial region
between matrix and reinforcement

An interface is a region with finite thickness through which

material parameters (composition, structure, E, , , etc.)
change from one side to another.
The applied load should be effectively transferred from the
matrix to the dispersed phase via the interface.

Interfacial region
The interfacial area is essentially equivalent to the
surface area of dispersed phase in a composite.

Thostenson et al. Composites Science and Technology, 65, 2005, 491-516.

Interfacial region
The primary considerations
Wetting of the dispersed phase by the matrix
The type of bonding between the dispersed
phase and the matrix

The ability of a liquid to spread on a solid surface

SV SL LV cos
contact angle

specific surface energy

The contact angle is a measure of wettability
The magnitude of depends on:
Time and temperature of contact,
Interfacial reactions,
Electronic configurations,
Surface roughness.
Complete wetting


SV ( LV SL )


( for 0 900 )

SV glass 560 mJ m 2 LV epoxy 43 mJ m 2


SV graphite 70 mJ m 2 LV polyester 35 mJ m

SV polyethylene 31 mJ m 2

LV metals ~ 800 mJ m 2


Hull and Clyne, An introduction to composite materials, Cambridge press 2010.

Types of interfaces
Coherent interface

One-to-one correspondence between lattice planes on the two sides of

the interface.

Semicoherent interface
A partial matching of lattice planes on the two sides of the interface.

Incoherent interface
No matching of lattice planes on the two sides of the interface.

Most interfaces in fiber or particle reinforced composites are

incoherent interfaces

Interface bonds

By Molecular entanglement

By electrostatic attraction

By interdiffusion of elements

By chemisorption

By chemical compound formation

By mechanical keying/bonding

Interface bonding
Degree of interfacial bonding determines toughness of
overall composite
For ductile matrix (metals and polymers) composites
A high degree of dispersed phase-matrix bonding is preferred.
A crack initiating in the brittle dispersed phase tends to be blunted
when it reaches the ductile matrix even the bonding is strong.

For brittle matrix (ceramics and carbon) composites

An optimum degree of dispersed phase-matrix bonding is
If the bond strength is too high, the resulting composite may be
extremely brittle, exhibiting catastrophic failure and poor strength.
If the bond strength is too low, the composite fails in pure shear,
with poor transfer of load to the dispersed phase.
Composites with optimum interfacial bond strength will have multiple
failure sites with diffused spread of damage.