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There are several different types of composites used today. The most common are:

Fibre reinforced composites

Particulate reinforced composites

Example of particulate reinforced composite, Example of fibre reinforced


concrete. Carbon fibre

reinforced plastic.

These types of composites cover a range of different material combinations. The most common
type is polymer matrix composites, however, metal matrix composites, and ceramic matrix
composites are also common, as are natural composites such as wood.

Fibre Reinforced Compposites

Fibre reinforced composites are classed as either continuous (long fibres) or

discontinuous (short fibres).

When the fibres are aligned they provide maximum strength but only along the direction of
alignment. The composite is considerably weaker along other directions and is therefore highly

Continuous aligned Discontinuous random Discontinuous aligned

This anisotropy can be overcome by randomly aligning fibres in all directions. This, however, is
a less effective strengthening technique but has the advantage of increased formability and
reduced cost.

Components that require strength in one particular direction will use aligned fibres while
components that require strength in more than one direction will use randomly oriented fibres.

Composites that have fibres aligned in one principal direction are made using either
continuous or discontinuous fibres. Composites with randomly oriented fibres are usually made
with discontinuous fibres.

Composites are essentially tailor made materials in that there are a number of parameters, other
than the properties of the fibres and matrix, that can be changed to meet the design requirements
of a given application.
Particle reinforcing in composites is a less effective means of strengthening than fibre
reinforcement. Particulate reinforced composites achieve gains in stiffness primarily, but also
can achieve increases in strength and toughness. In all cases the improvements are less than
would be achieved in a fibre reinforced composite.

Particulate reinforced composites find applications where high levels of wear resistance are
required such as road surfaces. The hardness of cement is increased significantly by adding
gravel as a reinforcing filler.

The principal advantage of particle reinforced composites is their low cost and ease of
production and forming.

Optimum strength and stiffness can be achieved in a composite by aligning the fibres parallel to
the direction of loading. However, in this case, the composite can perform very poorly when the
load is applied perpendicular to the fibres.

A method of producing a more isotropic composite is to randomly orient the fibres within the
matrix. However, this decreases the overall strengthening effect.

Another way of producing a more isotropic composite is to use multiple plies of continuous
fibres with the direction of the fibres differing in each ply. Fibres can vary by 90, 45, or 30
angles to accommodate for the direction of the applied loads.

Metal matrix composites, as the name suggests, consist of fibres or particles surrounded by a
matrix of metal.

The use of a metal matrix offers the potential of producing a composite with very high stiffness
and strength as well as very high temperature resistance. The temperature resistance is not only
superior to polymer matrix composites but also to the pure metal itself.

While metal matrix composites enjoy other advantages over polymer matrix composites such as
better abrasion resistance, creep resistance, resistance to degradation by fluids, dimensional
stability, and non-flammability, they are limited in application due to their much higher weight
and cost of production.

The main matrix materials employed in MMCs are aluminium, titanium, magnesium, and
copper. The main reinforcements employed are silicon carbide and alumina.

Metal matrix composites can be classed as having either continuous or discontinuous fibre
reinforcement. Discontinuous reinforced MMCs appear to offer more potential due to their ease
of manufacture. Discontinuous fibres can exist in the form of short fibres, whiskers, platelets, or

The common manufacturing processes used to achieve these composites are powder metallurgy
techniques, vapour deposition, diffusion bonding, and infiltration of liquid metal into the fibre
bundles under pressure.
he principal advantages of ceramic materials over other materials is their resilience to oxidation
and deterioration at eleveated temperatures, their high melting points, and high compressive
strengths. Unfortunately, ceramics suffer from a susceptibility to brittle fracture and therefore
have relatively low values of fracture toughness. One method of increasing the fracture
toughness of a ceramic is to reinforce it with fibres, whiskers, or particles. Crack propagation is
severely hindered by the presence of the reinforcing phase.

Fracture toughness values for ceramics are usually around 1-5 MPa.m1/2. With the addition of a
reinforcing material to make a CMC these values have been shown to increase to 6-20 MPa.m1/2.

Other advantages of CMCs is improved high-temperature creep behaviour and resistance to

thermal shock.

There are two idealised geometries that we will now examine.

Isostrain Stress applied parallel to aligned continuous fibres in a matrix.

Isostress Stress applied perpendicular to aligned continuous fibres in a matrix.