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(Four-Semester Course -Credit System- w.e.f. 2007-2008)

Periods/week: 4 Th. Ses. : 30 Exam: 70
Examination (Theory): 3hrs. Credits: 4

Introduction: Historical background; definitions, classification of composites:

fibrous composites, particulate composites, potential features of composites,
idealization of composites, mechanics of composites, basic steps in FRP molding.

What is the Historical Background of Composites?

! Nature has provided composite materials in living things. such as wood,

where the lignin matrix is reinforced with cellulose fibers and bones in
which the bone-salt plates made of calcium and phosphate ions reinforce soft

! Historical examples of composites are abundant in the literature. Significant

examples include the use of reinforcing mud walls in houses with bamboo
shoots, Israelites using bricks made of clay and reinforced with straw , glued
laminated wood by Egyptians (1500BC ), and laminated metals in forging
swords (AD. 1800).

! Around 3000 B.C. evidences from various sources indicate that in Egypt and
Mesopotamia, types of river-boat were constructed from bundles of papyrus
reed embedded in a matrix of bitumen.

! The use of lac has been known to India and China for several thousands of
years. It is recorded in the Vedas written about 1000 B.C. In India the resin
was used as filling for swords hafts and in the manufacture of whetstones by
mixing shellac with fine sand.

! By 500 B.C., the Greeks were building ships with three banks of oars called
triremes. They possessed keels that were much longer than could have been
accomplished by using a single length of timber. Thus, it can be seen that the
origin of composite technology goes back into antiquity.

! Modern composites were used in the 1930s when glass fibers reinforced
resins. Boats and aircraft were built out of these glass composites,
commonly called fiberglass. Since the 1970s, application of composites has
widely increased due to development of new fibers such as carbon, boron,
and aramids,* and new composite systems with matrices made of metals and

What is a composite?
A composite is a structural material that consists of two or more combined
constituents that are combined at a macroscopic level and are not soluble in each
other. One constituent is called the reinforcing phase and the one in which it is
embedded is called the matrix

! The reinforcing phase material may be in the form of fibers, particles, or

flakes. The matrix phase materials are generally continuous.

! The composite generally has superior characteristics than those of each of

the individual components.

Examples: concrete reinforced with steel and epoxy reinforced with graphite fibers,
Functions of the matrix

! The matrix binds the fibres together, holding them aligned in the important
stressed directions.
! The efficiency of this load transfer is directly related to the quality of the
fibre/matrix bond.
! The matrix must also isolate the fibres from each other so that they can act
as separate entities.if the matrix separates the fibres from each other so that
cracks are unable to pass unimpeded through sequences of fibres in contact,
which would result in completely brittle composites.
! The matrix should protect the reinforcing filaments from mechanical damage
(eg. abrasion) and from environmental attack.
! the matrix can also be an important means of increasing the toughness of the
! A ductile matrix will provide a means of slowing down or stopping cracks
that might have originated at broken fibres.

Properties of a Matrix

! The needs or desired properties of the matrix which are important for a
composite structure are as follows:
! Reduced moisture absorption.
! Low shrinkage.
! Low coefficient of thermal expansion.
! Good flow characteristics so that it penetrates the fibre bundles completely
and eliminates voids during the compacting/curing process.
! Reasonable strength, modulus and elongation (elongation should be greater
than fibre).
! Must be elastic to transfer load to fibres.
! Strength at elevated temperature (depending on application).
! Low temperature capability (depending on application).
! Excellent chemical resistance (depending on application).
! Should be easily processable into the final composite shape.
! Dimensional stability (maintains its shape).
Classification of Composites:

Based on Matrix material:

Based on Reinforced material:

Particulate Composites

As the name itself indicates, the reinforcement is of particle nature. In general,

Particulate reinforcements are widely used to improve the properties of matrix
materials such as to modify the thermal and electrical conductivities, improve
performance at elevated temperatures, reduce friction, increase wear and abrasion
resistance, improve machinability, increase surface hardness and reduce shrinkage.
Typical examples include use of aluminum particles in rubber; silicon carbide
particles in aluminum; and gravel, sand, and cement to make concrete.
Fibrous composites

A fiber is characterized by its length being much greater compared to its

cross-sectional dimensions. The dimensions of the reinforcement determine its
capability of contributing its properties to the composite. Fibers are very effective
in improving the fracture resistance of the matrix since a reinforcement having a
long dimension discourages the growth of incipient cracks normal to the
reinforcement that might otherwise lead to failure, particularly with brittle matrices.

Fibers, because of their small cross- sectional dimensions, are not directly
usable in engineering applications. They are, therefore, embedded in matrix
materials to form fibrous composites. The matrix serves to bind the fibers together,
transfer loads to the fibers, and protect them against environmental attack and
damage due to handling. In discontinuous fiber reinforced composites, the load
transfer function of the matrix is more critical than in continuous fiber composites.

Flake composites consist of flat reinforcements of matrices. Typical flake

materials are glass, mica, aluminum, and silver. Flake composites provide
advantages such as high out-of-plane flexural modulus, higher strength, and low
cost. However, flakes cannot be oriented easily and only a limited number of
materials are available for use.

Nanocomposites consist of materials that are of the scale of nanometers (109 m).
The accepted range to be classified as a nanocomposite is that one of the
constituents is less than 100 nm. At this scale, the properties of materials are
different from those of the bulk material.

Generally, advanced composite materials have constituents on the microscale (10

6 m). By having materials at the nanometer scale, most of the properties of the
resulting composite material are better than the ones at the microscale. Not all
properties of nanocomposites are better; in some cases, toughness and impact
strength can decrease.

Applications of nanocomposites include packaging applications for the military in

which nanocomposite films show improvement in properties such as elastic
modulus, and transmission rates for water vapor, heat distortion, and oxygen.

Body side molding of the 2004 Chevrolet Impala is made of olefinbased

nanocomposites. This reduced the weight of the molding by 7% and improved its
surface quality. General Motors currently uses 540,000 lb of nanocomposite
materials per year.

Rubber containing just a few parts per million of metal conducts electricity in
harsh conditions just like solid metal. Called Metal Rubber, it is fabricated
molecule by molecule by a process called electrostatic self-assembly. Awaited
applications of the Metal Rubber include artificial muscles, smart clothes, flexible
wires, and circuits for portable electronics
for portable electronics.

potential features of composites

Composite materials offer higher specific strength and stiffness than other
conventional materials. Readily available carbon fibre composites will match the
stiffness and strength of high-grade aluminium in all directions, at less than two-
thirds the density. Specialist grades can be double the strength and stiffness of steel
in the fibre direction at a fifth of the density.

Excellent strength and stiffness to weight ratio

The relative lightness of composite materials enables use of bigger sections that are
inherently stiffer and stronger for bending and torsion. This is a considerable
advantage for engineered structures. On a basic box section Aluminum, Titanium
and Steel have very similar specific strength and stiffness which can be exceeded
by even Black Metal application of carbon fibre composites. Tailoring the
direction of the fibres to where they work efficiently can give 4 times stiffer or 2.5
times stronger per weight. Tapering the lay-up or increase the aspect ratio of the
section improves performance further and can yield stiffness at 20 times and
strength four times than the metallic baseline.

Ability to form complex shapes

Composites can be used to make complex shapes without using high pressure tools,
because the composite is formed when the matrix cures or goes solid.
Consequently, the geometry of the part is very flexible, whether produced in low
volume by manual lay-up pre-preg cured in a press or autoclave or using dry fibre
performs infused with liquid resin in a closed mould.

The ability to mould complex shapes allows greater potential for consolidating the
number of individual components in an assembly and structurally offers the
advantage of inherent stability and buckling resistance. The use of core materials
can further enhance the out of plane stiffness and moves composites into a
different league.

Composites offer outstanding fatigue and durability potential and are in general
very tolerant to environmental effects such as UV damage, moisture, chemical
attack and temperature extremes.

Damping characteristics
Composites have the ability to reduce induced vibrations rapidly.

Chemical & Weathering Resistance

Composite products have good weathering properties and resist the attack of a
wide range of chemicals. This depends almost entirely on the resin used in
manufacture, but by careful selection resistance to all but the most extreme
conditions can be achieved. Because of this, composites are used in the
manufacture of chemical storage tanks, pipes, chimneys and ducts, boat hulls
and vehicle bodies.

Almost any shade of any colour can be incorporated into the product during
manufacture by pigmenting the gelcoat used. Costs are therefore reduced by no
further finishing or painting. Soluble dyes can be used if a translucent product is


Polyester resins are widely used to manufacture translucent mouldings and sheets.
Light transmission of up to 85% can be achieved

Idealization of Microstructure of Fibrous Composite:

The micromechanics is a study at fibre and matrix level. Thus, the geometry of
arrangement of the fibres and matrix in a composite is an essential requirement to
develop a model for the study. Some of the methods do not use the geometry of
arrangement. Most of the methods
developed for micromechanical analysis assume that:

The fibers and matrix are perfectly bonded and there is no slip between them.
The fibres are continuous and parallel.
The fibres are assumed to be circular in cross section with a uniform
diameter along its length.
The space between the fibres is uniform throughout the composite.
The elastic, thermal and hygral properties of fibre and matrix are known and
The fibres and matrix obey Hookes law.
The fibres and the matrix are only two phases in the composite.
There are no voids in the composite.

There are many ways to idealize the cross section of a lamina. The most commonly
preferred arrangements are square packed and hexagonal packed arrays of fibres in
In these idealizations it is seen that due to symmetry and periodicity of these arrays
one can consider only one array to analyze the lamina at micro scale. Further, if
this one array represents the general arrangement of fibres with respect to matrix
and the interactions of fibre and matrix phases, then such array is called
Representative Volume Element (RVE).

Further, this RVE as a volume of material statistically represents a homogeneous

material. In the analysis of an RVE the boundary conditions are chosen such that
they reflect the periodicity. Thus, the arrays shown in Figure 7.1 are various RVEs.
One should be able to see that the RVE also reflects the volume fractions.
Note that RVE is also called as Unit Cell.

Mechanics of Composites

A composite material consists of two or more constituents; thus, the analysis and
design of such materials is different from that for conventional materials such as
metals. The approach to analyze the mechanical behavior
of composite structures is as follows

1. Find the average properties of a composite ply from the individual properties of
the constituents. Properties include stiffness, strength, thermal, and moisture
expansion coefficients. Note that average properties are derived by considering the
ply to be homogeneous. At this level, one can optimize for the stiffness and
strength requirements of a lamina. This is called the micromechanics of a lamina.

2. Develop the stressstrain relationships for a unidirectional/bidirectional lamina.

Loads may be applied along the principal directions of symmetry of the lamina or
off-axis. Also, one develops relationships for stiffness, thermal and moisture
expansion coefficients, and strengths of angle plies. Failure theories of a lamina are
based on stresses in the lamina and strength properties of a lamina. This is called
the macromechanics of a lamina.

A structure made of composite materials is generally a laminate structure made of

various laminas stacked on each other. Knowing the macromechanics of a single
lamina, one develops the macromechanics of a laminate. Stiffness, strengths, and
thermal and moisture expansion coefficients can be found for the whole laminate.
Laminate failure is based on stresses and application of failure theories to each ply.
This knowledge of analysis of composites can then eventually form the basis for
the mechanical design of structures made of composites.

Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP)

Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) is a composite material made of a polymer matrix
reinforced with fibers. The fibres are usually glass, carbon,aramid, or basalt. The
polymer is usually an epoxy, vinylester or polyester thermosetting plastic,
andphenol formaldehyde resins are still in use.
FRPs are commonly used in the aerospace, automotive, marine, construction
industries and ballistic armor.
A polymer is generally manufactured by addition polymerization. When combined
with various agents to enhance or in any way alter the material properties of
polymers the result is referred to as a plastic.
Composite plastics refer to those types of plastics that result from bonding two or
more homogeneous materials with different material properties to derive a final
product with certain desired material and mechanical properties.
Fibre-reinforced plastics are a category of composite plastics that specifically use
fibre materials to mechanically enhance the strength and elasticity of plastics. The
extent that strength and elasticity are enhanced in a fibre-reinforced plastic depends
on the mechanical properties of both the fibre and matrix, their volume relative to
one another, and the fibre length and orientation within the matrix.
FRP involves two distinct processes, the first is the process whereby the
fibrous material is manufactured and formed, the second is the process
whereby fibrous materials are bonded with the matrix during moulding.
The manufacture of fibre fabric
Reinforcing Fibre is manufactured in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional
The manufacture of fibre preforms
Fibre preforms are how the fibres are manufactured before being bonded to the
matrix. Fibre preforms are often manufactured in sheets, continuous mats, or as
continuous filaments for spray applications. The four major ways to manufacture
the fibre preform is through the textile processing techniques
of Weaving, knitting, braiding and stitching.
Forming processes
A rigid structure is usually used to establish the shape of FRP components. Parts
can be laid up on a flat surface referred to as a "caul plate" or on a cylindrical
structure referred to as a "mandrel". However most fibre-reinforced plastic parts
are created with a mold or "tool."
The moulding processes of FRP plastics begins by placing the fibre preform on or
in the mold. The fibre preform can be dry fibre, or fibre that already contains a
measured amount of resin called "prepreg". Dry fibres are "wetted" with resin
either by hand or the resin is injected into a closed mold. The part is then cured,
leaving the matrix and fibres in the shape created by the mold. Heat and/or
pressure are sometimes used to cure the resin and improve the quality of the final
part. The different methods of forming are listed below.
Bladder moulding
Compression moulding
Autoclave / vacuum bag
Mandrel wrapping
Wet layup
Chopper gun
Filament winding
Resin transfer molding


Composites Used In Aerospace

Composites are versatile, used for both structural applications and components, in
all aircraft and spacecraft, from hot air balloon gondolas and gliders, to passenger
airliners, fighter planes and the Space Shuttle. Applications range from complete
airplanes such as the Beech Starship, to wing assemblies, helicopter rotor blades,
propellers, seats and instrument enclosures. Overall, carbon fiber is the most
widely used composite fiber in aerospace applications.

Biomedical applications:

Implants are particularly challenging in as they need to be made up of materials

that are biocompatible corrosion resistant, wear resistant, fatigue resistant and that
are able to maintain these properties over 10 of years. Carbon is a particularly
biocompatible material hence carbon composites are used for implants.

Composites also used for surgical and diagnosis devices, pace makers, wheel
chairs etc.

Other applications of different matrix composites:

Fibre reinforced PMCs are widely used for light weight structures like air frames.

Particle reinforced PMCs are used for electrical interconnections.

Rubber matrix composites reinforced with carbon particals are used for
Automotive tires.

MMCs with ceramic reinforcement are used in cutting tools like drills and for heat

MMCs with graphite flakes as the filler are also used as self lubricating piston
cylinders for automobile engines.

Carbon matrix composites are used for high temperature and light weight
structures such as the nose cones and leading edges of space shuttles and the nose
cones of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

What are the advantages of using composites over metals?

! Metals and their alloys cannot always meet the demands of todays advanced
technologies. Only by combining several materials can one meet the
performance requirements.
! For example, trusses and benches used in satellites need to be dimensionally
stable in space during temperature changes between 160C to 93.3C.
Limitations on coefficient of thermal expansion thus are low and may be of
the order of 1.8x107m/m/C). Metals and their alloys cannot meet these
requirements; this leaves composites, such as graphite/epoxy, as the only
materials to satisfy them.

! In many cases, using composites is more efficient. For example, in the

highly competitive airline market, one is continuously looking for ways to
lower the overall mass of the aircraft without decreasing the stiffness and
strength of its components. This is possible by replacing conventional metal
alloys with composite materials. Even if the composite material costs may
be higher, the reduction in the number of parts in an assembly and the
savings in fuel costs make them more profitable. Reducing 0.453 kg of mass
in a commercial aircraft can save up to 1360 l of fuel per year; fuel expenses
are 25% of the total operating costs of a commercial airline.

! Composites offer several other advantages over conventional materials.

These may include improved strength, stiffness, fatigue and impact
resistance, thermal conductivity ,corrosion resistance, etc.


High cost of fabrication of composites is a critical issue. For example, a part

made of graphite/epoxy composite may cost up to 10 to 15 times the material costs.
Improvements in processing and manufacturing techniques will lower these costs
in the future. Already, manufacturing techniques such as SMC (sheet molding
compound) and SRIM (structural reinforcement injection molding) are lowering
the cost and production time in manufacturing automobile parts.

Mechanical characterization of a composite structure is more complex than that

of a metal structure. Unlike metals, composite materials are not isotropic, that is,
their properties are not the same in all directions. Therefore, they require more
material parameters. In addition, evaluation and measurement techniques of some
composite properties, such as compressive strengths, are still being debated.

Repair of composites is not a simple process compared to that for metals.

Sometimes critical flaws and cracks in composite structures may go undetected.
Composites do not have a high combination of strength and fracture toughness*
compared to metals.
applications in Aero space .

Air crafts:
! The military aircraft industry has mainly led the use of polymer composites.
The percentage of structural weight of composites that was less than 2% in
F-15s in the 1970s has increased to about 30% on the AV-8B in the 1990s. In
both cases, the weight reduction over metal parts was more than 20%.

! In commercial airlines, the use of composites has been conservative because

of safety concerns. Use of composites is limited to secondary structures such
as rudders and elevators made of graphite/epoxy for the Boeing 767 and
landing gear doors made of Kevlargraphite/epoxy.

! Composites are also used in panels and floorings of airplanes. Some

examples of using composites in the primary structure are the all-composite
Lear Fan 2100 plane and the tail fin of the Airbus A310-300. Skins of aircraft
engine cowls are also made of polymer matrix composites for reducing

! World War II model airplane with fuselage made of glass/epoxy, wings

made of balsa-woodfacings/Styrofoam core sandwich construction, and
wing spars made of graphite/epoxy.

! Helicopters and tiltrotors use graphite/epoxy and glass/ epoxy rotor blades
that not only increase the life of blades by more than 100% over metals but
also increase the top speeds.

! Two factors make composites the material of choice in space applications:
high specific modulus and strength, and dimensional stability during large
changes in temperature in space. Examples include the Graphite/ epoxy-
honeycomb payload bay doors in the space shuttle.

! Weight savings over conventional metal alloys translate to higher payloads

that cost as much as $2208/kg. Also, for the space shuttles, graphite/ epoxy
was chosen primarily for weight savings and for small mechanical and
thermal deflections concerning the remote manipulator arm, which deploys
and retrieves payloads.
! High-gain antenna for the space station that uses sandwiches made of
graphite/epoxy facings with an aluminum honeycomb core. Antenna ribs
and struts in satellite systems use graphite/epoxy for their high specific
stiffness and its ability to meet the dimensional stability requirements due to
large temperature excursions in space.

! In June 2004, Paul G. Allen and Scaled Composites launched the first
privately manned vehicle, called Spaceship One, beyond the Earths
atmosphere. The spaceship reached a record-breaking altitude of
approximately 100 km. Spaceship One is constructed from graphite- epoxy
composite materials.

Sporting goods:

! Graphite/epoxy is replacing metals in golf club shafts mainly to decrease the

weight and use the saved weight in the head. This increase in the head
weight has improved driving distances by more than 25 yards (23 m).

! Bicycles use hybrid construction of graphite/epoxy composites wound on an

aluminum tubing or chopped S-glass reinforced urethane foam. The
graphite/epoxy composite increases the specific modulus of the tube and
decreases the mass of the frame by 25%. Composites also allow frames to
consist of one piece, which improves fatigue life and avoids stress
concentration found in metallic frames at their joints. Bicycle wheels made
of carbonpolymide composites offer low weight and better impact
resistance than aluminum.

! Tennis and racquetball rackets with graphite/epoxy frames are now


! The primary reasons for using composites are that they improve the torsional
rigidity of the racquet and reduce risk of elbow injury due to vibration
damping. Ice hockey sticks are now manufactured out of hybrids such as
Kevlarglass/epoxy. Kevlar is added for durability and stiffness. Ski poles
made of glass/polyester composites have higher strength, flexibility, and
lower weight than conventional ski poles. This reduces stress and impact on
upper body joints as the skier plants his poles.

Medical devices:
! Applications here include the use of glassKevlar/epoxy lightweight face
masks for epileptic patients.

! Artificial portable lungs are made of graphiteglass/epoxy so that a patient

can be mobile. X-ray tables made of graphite/epoxy facing sandwiches are
used for their high stiffness, light weight, and transparency to radiation. The
latter feature allows the patient to stay on one bed for an operation as well as
x-rays and be subjected to a lower dosage of radiation.

! The application of fiberglass in boats is well known. Hybrids of Kevlar
glass/epoxy are now replacing fiberglass for improved weight savings,
vibration damping, and impact resistance. Kevlarepoxy by itself would
have poor compression properties.

! Housings made of metals such as titanium to protect expensive

oceanographic research instruments during explorations of sea wrecks are
cost prohibitive. These housings are now made out of glass/epoxy and
sustain pressures as high as 10 ksi (69 MPa) and extremely corrosive

! Bridges made of polymer composite materials are gaining wide acceptance

due to their low weight, corrosion resistance, longer life cycle, and limited
earthquake damage. Although bridge components made of composites may
cost $5/lb as opposed to components made of steel, reinforced concrete may
only cost $0.30 to $1.00 per pound; the former weighs 80% less than the
latter. Also, by lifetime costs, fewer composite bridges need to be built than
traditional bridges.


! Composite leaf springs also give a smoother ride than steel leaf springs and
give more rapid response to stresses caused by road shock. Moreover,
composite leaf springs offer less chance of catastrophic failure, and excellent
corrosion resistance.

! By weight, about 8% of todays automobile parts are made of composites,

including bumpers, body panels, and doors. However, since 1981, the
average engine horsepower has increased by 84%, while average vehicle
weight has increased by more than 20%. To overcome the increasing weight
but also maintain the safety of modern vehicles, some estimate that carbon
composite bodies will reduce the weight by 50%.