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Article M AT E R I A L S
Journal of Composite Materials
2018, Vol. 52(15) 1997–2015
! The Author(s) 2017
The effect of voids on the quasi-static Reprints and permissions:
tensile properties of carbon fiber/polymer- DOI: 10.1177/0021998317737827
laminated composites

Haolong Liu1, Haitao Cui1,2, Weidong Wen1,2, Xuming Su3,

Hongtae Kang4 and Carlos Engler-Pinto3

Static longitudinal/transverse tensile tests for unidirectional carbon fiber/polymer (T300/924) laminates and laminates
with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s at various void levels were conducted, and degradations in stiffness/strength were observed
with the presence of voids. The void levels were controlled by compression pressure during the compression molding
process. The characterization of voids was achieved by digital microscopy image analysis; the density distributions of
equivalent diameters and aspect ratios were analyzed with respect to compression pressure.
For the purpose of quantifying the effect of voids on the static mechanical properties of composites, a stiffness
prediction method based on the Mori-Tanaka method and void geometric statistical data have been used with the
implementation of a finite element model of the representative volume element for unidirectional composites; the
prediction results show good correlation with experimental data. Finally, a modified continuum damage model for
laminated composites with the presence of voids was proposed, the model is capable of capturing the effect of voids;
and gradual damage analysis for carbon fiber/polymer composite laminates at different void levels was conducted to
evaluate the effect of voids on their tensile properties.

Carbon fiber/polymer composites, effect of voids, mechanical properties, voids’ morphological analysis

and have made great progress.2–7 On top of that, defects

(e.g., voids) and environmental corrosion (e.g., hygro-
Composites have been widely used in structural thermal or ultraviolet aging) have also been reported
components in many engineering fields such as vehicle to have an impact on the mechanical properties of
and airplane manufacturing industries; carbon fiber– CFRP8,9 and thus need to be understood through fur-
reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites, in particular, ther experimental work, theories, and simulations.
have become promising materials due to many Voids are one of the most common defects in CFRP
advantages in comparison with traditional materials composites. Voids usually can be formed in the resin
such as metals in terms of their high relative stiffness/
strength.1 As the working conditions of structural
components can be quite complex, it is crucial to thor- College of Energy and Power Engineering, Nanjing University of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, China
oughly understand the behaviors of composites when 2
State Key Laboratory of Mechanics and Control of Mechanical
subjected to various types of loading. Since the mid- Structures, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China
20th century, researchers have studied the mechanical 3
Department of Materials Manufacturing, Ford Motor Company, USA
properties (longitudinal tension/compression modulus/ College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan-
strength, in-plane shear modulus/strength, flexural Dearborn, USA
strength, ILSS, fatigue resistance, etc.) of CFRP com-
Corresponding author:
posites with different microstructures (unidirectional Haolong Liu, College of Energy and Power Engineering, Nanjing
laminates, cross-ply laminates, woven laminates, 2.5- University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 29 Yudao St., Nanjing, China.
D woven CFRP, 3-D braided CFRP composites, etc.) Email:
1998 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

from either the volatiles that come from the chemical

reactions of resin curing or the air trapped in the matrix
in the autoclaving process. In recent years, detrimental
effects of voids on various mechanical properties of
composites have been reported.10 Efforts have been
made to investigate the effect of voids on mechanical
properties, including tensile/compressive/interlaminar
modulus/strength, fracture toughness, and fatigue
life.10–13 However, most previous studies focused only
on experimental tests; the lack of a systematic approach
for stiffness/strength prediction has brought difficulties
in the evaluation of effect of voids on the mechanical
properties of CFRP laminates, which can limit the
application of CFRP composites in component design.
The objective of the current research is to investigate
the effect of voids on tensile properties of CFRP lami- Figure 1. Curing cycle during compression molding.
nated composites, and to provide a viable numerical
solution to evaluate the impact of voids on the
stiffness/strength of CFRP-laminated composites with Table 1. Manufacturing parameters of the composite plaques.
different stacking sequences. In the present paper, char-
acterization of voids was accomplished with the imple- Thickness Compression
mentation of a digital microscopy (DM) image analysis Type Lay-ups (mm) pressure (MPa)
technique for samples with void content of 0.8%, 2.2%, UD laminates ½0 12 1.53 0.01/0.1/0.3/0.5
4%, and 9.3% to investigate the morphological fea-
½0 16 2.03 0.5
tures. Then longitudinal/transverse quasi-static tensile
MD laminate ½0=  45=0=90s 1.26 0.01/0.1/0.5
tests of unidirectional laminates and tensile tests of
samples with a stacking sequence of ½0=  45=0=90s
were conducted to study the reduction in stiffness/
strength with the presence of voids. An approach different stacking sequences: unidirectional laminates
based on the Mori-Tanaka method and void geometric and ½0=  45=0=90s , as detailed in Table 1. By control-
statistical data via representative volume element (RVE) ling the compressive pressure, laminates with various
modeling of unidirectional composites was proposed to levels of voids were made for further tests. The void
predict the tensile modulus of laminates at different void content of each plaque was determined using the DM
levels, while a continuum damage model (CDM) for image analysis technique, the detail of which is intro-
CFRP composites considering the effect of voids was duced in the next section.
further developed based on equivalent strain failure cri-
teria derived from criteria proposed by Hashin14 and
Morphological research of voids
Camanho and Dávila.15 Finally, based on the study on
Unidirectional (UD) laminates, a CDM-based gradual Morphological research of voids in CFRP composites
damage analysis method was used to predict the failure includes characterization of volume content, size, and
process of CFRP multidirectional (MD) laminates with aspect ratio of voids. Several approaches have been
given lay-ups, a simulation was conducted to simulate proposed in previous research to identify the voids’ fea-
the tensile stress–strain curve of rectangular samples tures in CFRP composites.17,18 Nondestructive inspec-
with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s at different void levels as tion methods (e.g., X-ray and ultrasonic scanning19)
validation. The comparisons between the predictions have been widely used due to their advantages in
and the test stress–strain curves showed good agreement. terms of the non-damaging effect on the material; dens-
ity method20 is also a common practice as it is easy to
perform. However, some morphological parameters of
Experimental voids (e.g., aspect ratio and size) that are crucial in void
characterization cannot be determined using these
Material preparation approaches.
The CFRP plaques (T300/924 carbon fiber/epoxy lamin- In this paper, DM image analysis was introduced to
ates) were fabricated from prepreg using molding com- study the morphological features of voids, including
pression, and the curing cycle is shown in Figure 1.16 The void content, size, aspect ratio, and their distribution.
plaques have a size of 500 mm  600 mm, with two Compared to the density method, the DM method is
Liu et al. 1999

Figure 2. Image pre-processing and noise elimination: (a) original grayscale image, (b) binary image, and (c) image after noise

able to identify the location and geometric characteris- dimensions of 10 mm  10 mm were cut using a
tics of voids; more than one specimen was analyzed to water jet, providing the nonuniform distribution of
reduce the random error and to improve the accuracy voids, from randomly selected positions of plaques.
of measurement in this study. An image analysis soft- Before further observation, the samples were first
ware module based on the image-processing functions embedded into epoxy and cured for 24 h before being
provided by MATLAB has also been proposed to char- polished using abrasive papers and grinding com-
acterize the voids. In detail, the grayscale micro-image, pounds until the surfaces were smooth enough to
as shown in Figure 2(a), was taken from an optical observe. For each single sample, images of three differ-
microscope and then converted to binary images, as ent cross-sectional areas were captured by a PC-based
shown in Figure 2(b). In this process, pixels within CMOS camera using a 200 magnification lens (the
the area of voids would be set to pure black (value selected magnification allows the identification of
‘‘0’’), while the pixels in the rest of the area would be fibers and voids). The resolution of the image is 136
set to pure white (value ‘‘1’’). This process could be pixels per 100 um.
achieved by setting an appropriate threshold in the con- The void content can be obtained through calculat-
verting process, the value of the threshold should be ing the area proportion of all the voids in the micro-
carefully adjusted for each figure until the boundaries images, which has been proven to be one of the efficient
of voids are able to be identified, thus the voids can be and accurate ways for measuring the void level. In this
separated from surrounding fibers and matrix. Note research, some geometric parameters that were
that noticeable noise could be observed after conver- reported as having an impact on the mechanical prop-
sion, which may influence the analysis results. To erties of CFRP composites, including aspect ratio and
enhance measurement accuracy, such noise needs to size of voids, were also analyzed. The measurement of
be eliminated from the processed images before further void size can be achieved by calculation of the equiva-
analysis (Figure 2(c)). lent diameter of the voids (diameter of equivalent cir-
To fully characterize the content and other morpho- cular area), and the aspect ratio is defined as the ratio
logical features of voids, square specimens with of the long to the short axis of the equivalent ellipsoid.
2000 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Figure 3. Geometric schematic of specimens: (a) longitudinal tensile specimen with aluminum tabs, (b) transverse tensile specimen
with aluminum tabs, (c) MD specimen with GFRP composite tabs.

Quasi-static tensile testing

Quasi-static tensile tests for unidirectional laminates
and laminates with a stacking sequence of
½0=  45=0=90s were conducted to investigate the
effect of voids on the tensile modulus and strength of
CFRP laminates. All tensile specimens used in this
study were designed and machined according to the
ASTM D3039/3039M standard. Tapered tabs, 2-mm
thick, made of aluminum or glass fiber–reinforced poly-
mer (GFRP) laminates were glued to each end of the
sample to protect the gripping section and avoid stress
concentration. 3M Scotch-Weld Epoxy Adhesive
DP420 was selected as the adhesive layer in this test,
the epoxy adhesive was cured in the oven for 15 h at
Figure 4. MTS 647 servo hydraulic testing machine.
150 C before testing. The geometry of the specimens
can be found in Figure 3.
Displacement-controlled quasi-static tensile tests
were performed on an MTS 647 servo hydraulic test- Results and discussion
ing machine at a constant rate of 1 mm/min with the
axial strain being monitored by a 2-in. MTS E
Void characterization
634.31F-24 extensometer, as illustrated in Figure 4. Samples of 16-ply laminates cured at 0.5 MPa and 12-
To prevent the splitting broken fibers from hurting ply laminates cured at 0.3 MPa, 0.1 MPa, and 0.01
testers, a transparent cylindrical shield was installed MPa denoted as group A, B, C, and D respectively,
to the test frame. During the longitudinal tensile test, were tested in this study. The typical cross-sectional
the blades of the extensometer were glued to the images of samples at different void levels are shown
sample surface to avoid the potential for slipping, in Figure 5. The voids, fibers, and resin matrix can be
which can be caused by the vibration as a result of easily distinguished due to their different reflectance. It
filament breakage and then lead to distortion in the can be seen that materials at higher void levels have
recorded strain. The samples for the longitudinal/ higher void density within fiber tows, while the average
transverse tensile tests were cut from plaques cured void size seems not to be affected greatly by the void
at various compression pressures, and the fiber level; furthermore, interlaminar voids can be easily
volume fractions of all the samples have been mea- observed in the composites cured at lower pressures.
sured by calculating the proportion of gross fiber This phenomenon can be explained by the suppression
cross-sectional area in the micro-images using the effect on the growth of the air entrapped between plies
preceding image-processing software (about 49%). in the curing process.21
Liu et al. 2001

Figure 5. Cross-sectional micrograph of unidirectional laminates: (a) sample prepared for void characterization, (b) cured at 0.5
MPa, (c) cured at 0.3 MPa, (d) cured at 0.1 MPa, and (e) cured at 0.01 MPa.

Figure 6(a) demonstrates the void contents of 15 have an average void number below 100, while samples
samples from the three groups of materials cured at with void content of 9.3% have approximately
various pressures. The obvious trend can be seen that 630 voids in the same size of analyzed area. The num-
the samples cured at higher compression pressure have bers of interlaminar voids, on the contrary, seem to be
lower void content; scatter in the void contents of dif- less sensitive to the void content, as shown in
ferent samples as well as different positions can also be Figure 6(c), even if a similar trend can be observed
observed as a result of the nonuniform distribution of for the relationship between void number and compres-
the intralaminar and interlaminar voids. The void sion pressure.
content of each group was determined by statistical Figure 7 shows the distributions of equivalent diam-
averaging of all the values obtained from each image; eters and aspect ratios of voids in composites at differ-
the void content of the four batches of unidirectional ent void levels. As can be seen in the figure, the
laminates can be determined as 0.8%, 2.2%, 4%, and distributions of both equivalent diameters and aspect
9.3%, respectively. ratios are close to normal distribution. As for the
The formation mechanisms of voids in composites equivalent diameter, the peak values of the equivalent
have been studied in much research,22,23 and the voids diameter distribution curves of samples from the four
can usually be divided into two categories: The first groups are all between 5 um and 10 um. However, the
comprises interlaminar voids existing in resin-rich scatter of data for samples with higher void content is
areas, which may derive from the entrapped air higher than that of samples with lower void content,
during autoclaving; this kind of void is usually bigger which demonstrates a little higher average void size.
in size and is detrimental to the ILSS of the material. According to Figure 7(e) to (h), samples with 0.8%,
The other kind of voids are intralaminar voids, which 2.2%, 4%, and 9.3% voids do not show marked differ-
may come from the volatiles embedded in the matrix ences in the aspect ratio of the voids; most of the voids
that derive from the chemical reaction during the man- have an aspect ratio between 1 and 3.
ufacturing process; the intralaminar voids are usually
small in size and distributed uniformly within fiber
tows. In this study, the numbers of both kinds of
Quasi-static tensile testing
voids in the analyzed area for each sample have also Longitudinal quasi-static tensile test for UD CFRP
been recorded, as detailed in Figure 6(b) and (c). The laminates. The results of the longitudinal quasi-static
number of intralaminar voids is found to be sensitive to tensile test are listed in Table 2, and the stress–strain
the void content; samples with void content of 0.8% curves are depicted in Figure 8. The tensile failure of
2002 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Figure 6. Void content of specimens cured at various compression pressures: (a) void content of samples, (b) number of intrala-
minar voids, and (c) number of inter-laminar voids in the analyzed area.

the samples shows a brittle fracture, with slight reduc- failure (Figure 9(c)). Some defective fibers may break
tion in the tensile modulus occurring only at the final successively as the axial loading increases before final
stage of the test. In this stage, some small ‘‘teeth’’ can fracture; the breakage of defective fibers can initiate
be observed on the stress–strain curves; the reason for transverse micro-cracks in the epoxy matrix that will
this is the breakage of some defective fibers in random continue propagating as the loading increases to form
positions during the loading process. The fiber defects a macro-crack or a crack with fiber bridging until stop-
can be voids either at the surface or within the fibers, ping at the fiber/matrix interface or deflecting to the
inclusions as a result of incomplete carbonization, or longitudinal direction to form interfacial de-bonding.
cracks initiated during the cooling process in manufac- The propagating interfacial de-bonding can cause fur-
ture as a result of the different thermal expansion coef- ther fiber breakage and be able to connect the trans-
ficients in the longitudinal/transverse directions.24 By verse cracks at various positions; the final fracture of
comparing the stress–strain curves for samples at dif- the sample will occur once there exists a cross section
ferent void levels, it can be seen that the samples with where the stress is high enough to break the remaining
higher void content are more likely to experience an fibers. It should be noted that the transverse/longitu-
earlier initial filament breakage than those with lower dinal cracks may also initiate from the voids in the
void content. For the samples with 0.8% voids, fiber matrix, which can act as local concentrators; this will
breakage can be seen only at the very final stage of the lead to an earlier random fiber breakage and thus accel-
test. erate the failure process. Aside from broken fibers, in
Figure 9 shows the scanning electron microscope Figure 9(c), large quantities of fiber imprints as a result
(SEM) images for the fracture surface of the UD spe- of fiber/matrix interfacial de-bonding can be seen; in
cimen in the longitudinal tensile test. As expected, the addition, cusps between adjacent fibers, which is an
crucial failure mechanisms are fiber breakage indicator of shear failure of the matrix, can also be
(Figure 9(a), (b), and (d)) and fiber/matrix interfacial observed.
Liu et al. 2003

Figure 7. Geometrical parameter distribution of voids for laminates cured at various compression pressures.
2004 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Table 2. Longitudinal mechanical properties of UD laminates.

Ultimate tensile strength

Stiffness/GPa (UTS)/MPa

Void Average Standard Average Standard

Specimen label Lay-ups content Modulus value deviation UTS value deviation

16-A-L-1 [0]16 0.8% 115.47 114.67 0.89 1479 1402 54

16-A-L-2 113.93 1367
16-A-L-3 115.80 1339
16-A-L-4 114.12 1424
16-A-L-5 114.04 1402
12-B-L-1 [0]12 2.2% 116.81 114.89 1.57 1314 1377 79
12-B-L-2 112.65 1276
12-B-L-3 115.80 1425
12-B-L-4 114.32 1408
12-B-L-5 114.87 1464
12-C-L-1 [0]12 4% 115.49 114.28 1.69 1316 1332 66
12-C-L-2 112.02 1258
12-C-L-3 115.97 1406
12-C-L-4 113.01 1285
12-C-L-5 114.89 1396
12-D-L-1 [0]12 9.3% 112.81 112.33 1.44 1009 1136 91
12-D-L-2 110.06 1073
12-D-L-3 113.71 1182
12-D-L-4 113.22 1222
12-D-L-5 111.84 1196

Figure 8. Longitudinal tensile stress–strain curves for UD laminates at different void levels.
Liu et al. 2005

Figure 9. Fractography of longitudinal quasi-static tensile failure using scanning electron microscope.

Figure 10. Longitudinal tensile properties of UD laminate at different void levels.

Figure 10 depicts the degradation of the longitudinal As can be expected, both the stiffness and strength seem
tensile modulus and strength of UD laminates with the to be affected by the presence of voids. Marked differ-
presence of voids. According to the figure, the tensile ences in transverse tensile modulus/strength can be
modulus of the samples is not affected by the presence found among laminates with void contents ranging
of voids; however, the ultimate tensile strength shows a from 0.8% to 9.3%; the effect of voids on the transverse
marked decrease as the void content increases from stiffness and tensile strength is non-negligible. Linear
0.8% to 9.3%, which shows that high void content is fitting was employed to describe the relationships
detrimental to the longitudinal tensile properties of UD between the transverse tensile modulus/strength and
laminates by reducing the ultimate tensile strength. the void content (see Figure 12(a) and (b)). Moreover,
Transverse quasi-static tensile test for UD CFRP since the transverse properties and failure mechanisms
laminates. Figure 11 presents the stress–strain curves of UD laminates are matrix-dominated, the residual
of the transverse tensile test for 12-ply UD laminates, stiffness of the material is closely related to the
and the experimental results are presented in Table 3. transverse crack density in the matrix. According to
2006 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Figure 11. Transverse tensile stress–strain curves of UD laminates at different void levels.

Figure 11, the samples with 9.3% voids, in particular, as the void content increases from 0.6% to 8.9%), while
yield at a relatively lower axial stress compared with the influence of voids on the tensile modulus is limited.
those with void content of 0.8%, 2.2%, and 4%,
which demonstrates that the high void level promotes
crack nucleation, and thus the yield strength decrease in Mechanical models
the transverse direction can be observed. Stiffness prediction method for CFRP-laminated
Figure 13 shows an SEM photo of the fracture sur-
face of samples in the transverse tensile test. Different
composites with the presence of voids
from that of the longitudinal tensile test, the fracture As has been revealed by the preceding tests, neglect of
surface is relatively smooth. The final fracture of trans- the presence of voids may lead to the overestimation of
verse UD laminates comes from the propagation and the stiffness or strength of the material in some cases,
merging of cracks in the matrix or interfacial failure thus resulting in unexpected component failure in
perpendicular to the loading direction; the transverse real-world applications. In the interest of safety, quan-
cracks may initiate from voids or other defects such titative evaluation of the effect of voids on the static
as fiber waviness. As shown in Figure 13, exposed mechanical properties of CFRP laminates needs to be
fibers, fiber imprints, and scarps can be observed on done by a proven method, which is essential in real-
the fracture surface, which are typical indicators for world applications. In this study, the modulus of the
Mode I failure of transverse UD laminates. CFRP laminate was predicted by a stiffness prediction
Quasi-static tensile test for laminates with lay-ups approach based on the Mori-Tanaka method, void geo-
½0=  45=0=90s . The post-failure mode for laminates metric statistical data, and finite element (FE) analysis
with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s is shown in Figure 14. As for a fiber randomly distributed RVE model of an UD
expected, plies with different fiber orientations have dif- composite.
ferent failure modes. For 0 plies, fiber breakage and The equivalent stiffness of a pure matrix with differ-
interfacial de-bonding are the dominant failure modes, ent void levels was first evaluated by the modified
whereas for 45 and 90 plies, cracks propagate along Mori-Tanaka method with the use of the morpho-
fiber tows, and enormous amounts of delamination and logical parameters of the void. In this paper, the inter-
fiber/matrix interfacial de-bonding can be observed. actions between voids are ignored since the average size
Moreover, delamination can also be seen between adja- of the voids is much smaller than the average distance
cent plies. According to the test data shown in Table 4, between adjacent voids. If a single void is treated as an
the presence of voids greatly reduces the tensile strength inclusion with zero mechanical properties in the infinite
of the samples (decreasing from 523 MPa to 415 MPa matrix, the strain of the inclusion "i can be expressed as
Liu et al. 2007

Table 3. Transverse mechanical properties of UD laminates.

Stiffness/GPa UTS/MPa

Void Average Standard Average Standard

Specimen label Lay-ups content Modulus value deviation UTS value deviation

12-A-T-1 [90]12 0.8% 9.61 9.79 0.16 36.5 39.6 2.2

12-A-T-2 9.91 38.2
12-A-T-3 9.92 41.5
12-A-T-4 9.54 42.1
12-A-T-5 9.93 42.0
12-A-T-6 9.67 37.9
12-A-T-7 9.88 40.1
12-A-T-8 9.85 38.4
12-B-T-1 [90]12 2.2% 9.37 9.54 0.25 33.9 36.2 2.3
12-B-T-2 9.81 34.2
12-B-T-3 9.27 37.7
12-B-T-4 9.83 38.0
12-B-T-5 9.28 32.5
12-B-T-6 9.66 37.5
12-B-T-7 9.34 38.1
12-B-T-8 9.79 37.9

12-C-T-1 [90]12 4% 9.24 9.25 0.26 29.5 33.1 2.6

12-C-T-2 9.02 30.5
12-C-T-3 9.53 32.8
12-C-T-4 9.64 36.7
12-C-T-5 8.94 34.9
12-C-T-6 9.42 30.8
12-C-T-7 9.05 34.4
12-C-T-8 9.12 35.1
12-D-T-1 [90]12 9.3% 8.31 8.45 0.32 23.9 25.1 2.8
12-D-T-2 8.28 26.6
12-D-T-3 8.06 21.7
12-D-T-4 9.01 30.2
12-D-T-5 8.74 25.1
12-D-T-6 8.65 22.1
12-D-T-7 8.18 26.9
12-D-T-8 8.36 24.6

the following function of the remote strain "0 according average strain; the strain of the inclusion in the Mori-
to inclusion theory25 Tanaka method is defined in equation (2)25
"i ¼ ½I þ Pi ðCi  Cm Þ1 "0 ð1Þ "i ¼ ½I þ Pi ðCi  Cm Þ1 cm I þ ci ½I þ Pi ðCi  Cm Þ1
where I is unit tensor; Ci and Cm are the stiffness ten-
sors of the inclusion and matrix, respectively; tensor Pi where cm and ci are the volume fractions of the matrix
is related to the shape of the inclusion. and the inclusion, respectively.
Mori-Tanaka improved the traditional inclusion To take the size effect of voids into account, the
method by replacing the remote strain with matrix voids are divided into several groups judged by the
2008 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Figure 12. Transverse tensile properties of UD laminates at different void levels.

thickness direction). r1,i , r2,i , r3,i ði 2 1  NÞ can be cal-

culated based on the geometric model as shown in
equation (4)
< deq,i 12
r1,i ¼ 2 rasp,i
ði 2 1  NÞ ð4Þ
:r ¼ r,i3 ¼
deq,i 12
2,i 2 rasp,i

where deq,i and rasp,i are the equivalent diameter and

aspect ratio of voids of the ith group. The tensor Pi
can be obtained from the Eshelby tensor of the
The stiffness of the matrix with the presence of voids
obtained through the preceding approach can be used
Figure 13. SEM image of transverse tensile fracture surface. as input parameters for the FE analysis. The estab-
lished micro-level FE model of RVE for UD laminates
is shown in Figure 15. In this model, fibers are ran-
domly distributed in the matrix to reproduce the
real case, and the matrix is defined as pure elastic
material. Local elementary coordinate systems were
introduced to reflect the fiber orientation. The fiber
radius df ¼ 3.5 um. To reduce the random error, the
average value of the predicted modulus for 15 different
Figure 14. Post-failure mode for tensile test of laminates with cases (with different fiber distributions) will be used for
lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s . further analysis. The moduli of the material can be
calculated through the energy method by calculating
equivalent size; the voids in each group share the same the gross strain energy of the FE model in different
equivalent diameter and are treated as a certain type of loading cases.
inclusion. When there are N groups of inclusion, the To guarantee the deformation consistency and stress
equivalent homogeneous stiffness tensor of the matrix continuity at the boundary of the RVE, periodic
can be calculated by equation (3), considering boundary conditions (PBCs) were applied to the FE
Ci ¼ 0 ði 2 0  NÞ model. In this study, six reference points were estab-
lished and each of them corresponded to one of the
N six loading cases (longitudinal/transverse tension/com-
C ¼ Cm þ ci ½ðCm Þ1 þcm Pi 1 ð3Þ pression, longitudinal/transverse shear, etc.). The appli-
cations of PBC in the FE model can then be fulfilled by
applying multipoint constraints (MPCs) to the surface
In this study, the voids are assumed to be spheroids nodes and the reference points. To avoid over-con-
with a radius of three axes (denoted as r1 , r2 , r3 ) having straint, the nodes at vertices and on the edges of the
the relationship r1  r2 ¼ r3 (r1 is parallel to the model need to be treated separately, as they belong to
Liu et al. 2009

Table 4. Tensile mechanical properties of laminates with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s .

Stiffness/GPa UTS/MPa

Void Average Standard Average Standard

Label Lay-ups content Modulus modulus deviation UTS UTS deviation

SA-A-T-1 ½0=  45=0=90s 0.6% 54.2 54.9 0.47 542 523 17

SA-A-T-2 55.2 506
SA-A-T-3 54.9 509
SA-A-T-4 55.4 539
SA-A-T-5 54.7 518
SA-B-T-1 3.8% 53.1 53.8 0.62 472 481 24
SA-B-T-2 54.6 447
SA-B-T-3 53.7 494
SA-B-T-4 53.4 512
SA-B-T-5 54.3 478
SA-C-T-1 8.9% 51.2 51.6 0.57 409 415 15
SA-C-T-2 52.1 394
SA-C-T-3 52.3 411
SA-C-T-4 51.4 432
SA-C-T-5 51.0 427

compression strength of unidirectional CFRP lamin-

ates at different void levels, as shown in equation (6).
X k ¼ X0k eB
maxðvv ½vv , 0Þ
ðk 2 t, cÞ ð6Þ
Y k ¼ Y0k eC
maxðvv ½vv , 0Þ

where X0k and Y0k are longitudinal strength and trans-

verse yield strength, respectively, of the material with-
out voids, B and C are constants dependent on the
material properties and characteristics of voids, includ-
ing void size and aspect ratio; ½vv stands for the critical
void content under which the effect of voids on static
Figure 15. Fiber randomly distributed RVE model: (a) random strength can be ignored (in this paper ½vv ¼ 1 % was
fiber distribution and (b) FE model of RVE.
used). The values of B and C can be determined by
curve fitting of the test data. In this study, the compres-
more than one surface. The general expression of PBC sion yield strengths ðX c , Y c Þ and shear strengths
is as shown in equation (5)26 (S 12 , S 23 ) are calculated by empirical equations found
in the literature.28 The degradation of the shear
ujþ j j
i ðx, y, zÞ  ui ðx, y, zÞ ¼ ci ði, j ¼ 1, 2, 3Þ ð5Þ strengths due to the presence of voids can be character-
ized by a linear model proposed by Yoshida et al.29
where the superscript jþ and j refer to the positive CDM for CFRP-laminated composites with the pres-
and negative direction of the axis, cji is a constant. ence of voids. Hashin criteria have been commonly used
criteria due to their advantages in terms of the capabil-
ity to differentiate the failure modes. To adjust the role
Failure analysis of shear stress, modified Hashin criteria were proposed
Static strength of CFRP laminates with the presence of by some researchers by introducing shear stress fac-
voids. To quantify the effect of voids on the static tors.28 In this paper, an equivalent strain criterion has
strength of CFRP laminates, a modified empirical been put forward based on the modified criteria of
model proposed by Ryshkewitch27 was chosen to pre- Camanho and Dávila.15 Five failure modes, including
dict the longitudinal/transverse static tensile/ fiber tension breakage (FT), fiber compression failure
2010 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Table 5. Equivalent strain and critical strain for different failure modes.

Critical equivalent
Failure mode Equivalent strain "I Constants AI , BI strain ½"I
 2 ffi  2
G X Xt
FT "FT ¼ h"21 i þ AFT 12 þ 13 2 AFT ¼ FT E121 S t E1
ð1 4 0Þ
FC "FC ¼ jh"1 ij —— E1
ð1 5 0Þ
qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi  2
G12 Yt Yt
MT "MT ¼ h"22 i þ AMT 12 2 þB
MT 23
2 AMT ¼ MT E2 S 12 E2
G23 Yt
ð2 4 0Þ BMT ¼ E2 S 23
qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi  2
G12 Yc Yc
MC "MC ¼ h"22 i þ AMC 12 2 þB
MC 23
2 AMC ¼ MC E2 S 12 E2
ð2 5 0Þ G Y
BMC ¼ E232 S c
23 Yt
IS qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
 2 ffi  2 E2
G12 Yt
"IS ¼ h"22 i þ AIS 12 þ 13 2 AIS ¼ E2 S
ð2 4 0Þ
FT: fiber tension breakage; FC: fiber compression failure; MT: matrix tension failure; MC: matrix compression failure; IS: fiber/matrix interfacial shear

Table 6. Numerical prediction results of transverse modulus of UD laminates at different void levels.

Finite element (FE) approach

Rule of mixtures based on Mori-Tanaka
Test data
vv (%) Modulus/GPa Modulus/GPa Error (%) Modulus/GPa Error (%)

0.8 9.79 10.13 3.47 10.03 2.45

2.2 9.54 9.93 4.09 9.81 2.83
4 9.25 9.67 4.54 9.52 2.92
9.3 8.45 8.91 5.44 8.66 2.49

(FC), matrix tension failure (MT), matrix compression matrix and the fibers, it is reasonable to assume that
failure (MC), and fiber/matrix interfacial shear failure the shear stress factors are functions of fiber content. In
(IS), are taken into account. The equivalent strain "I this paper, gradual damage FE analysis based on a typ-
and critical equivalent strain ½"I for each failure mode ical RVE model with uniformly distributed fibers at
(I2FT, FC, MT, MC, IS) have been defined (see different fiber content levels has been conducted to
Table 5). When "I exceeds ½"I , the damage begins to determine the shear stress factors. The characteristic
initiate. In Table 5, "1 and "2 indicate the strain com- distance between adjacent fibers was changed by setting
ponents caused by stress components  1 and  2 , different fiber volume fractions. Mises criteria were
respectively; X k , Y k (k 2 t, c), S 12 , and S 23 stand for used in the simulation to identify the failure of fibers/
the longitudinal strength, transverse yield strength, matrix; a simple abrupt degradation rule was applied to
and longitudinal/transverse shear strength, respectively, characterize the local damage, in which the correspond-
of the material considering the effect of voids. I (I2FT, ing modulus of the failed element was multiplied by a
MT, MC) are the shear stress factors. very small value (0.1) rather than 0 to avoid a singular
In previous research, the shear stress factors stiffness matrix. The stiffness and strengths of fiber and
I (I2FT, MT, MC) in modified Hashin criteria are usu- matrix used in this study are presented in Tables 6 and
ally empirically set as constants, which might not work 7. As for load condition, a pure incremental longitu-
very well in some cases. Since fiber content could influ- dinal or transverse shear stress was applied to the RVE
ence characteristic distances between adjacent fibers, model; the applied shear stresses at initial failure of
which may have an impact on the stress field in the certain failure modes were recorded to determine the
Liu et al. 2011

Table 7. Static strength of fiber/matrix.16,32 The stiffness degradation in this paper is character-
ized by defining a failure index tensor Mð fI Þ, the com-
Components Xt Xc
pliance matrix with damage Sf can be calculated from
Toray T300 3530 MPa 2070 MPa the initial compliance matrix S0 through equation (8).
Hexply 924 65 MPa 175 MPa The expression of Mð fI Þ can be seen in equation (9).

Sf ¼ Mð fI ÞS0 ð8Þ

2 1 3
1f1 0 0 0 0 0
6 1 7
6 1f2 0 0 0 0 7
6 7
6 1
0 0 0 7
6 1f3 7
Mðfi Þ ¼ 6
7 ð9Þ
1f23 0 0 7
6 7
6 syn 1
0 7
4 1f13 5

where f1 ¼ maxððh1 =1 iÞ fFT , fFC Þ, f2 ¼ 1  ð1  fIS Þ

ð1  max
 ððh2 =2 iÞ fMT , fMC ÞÞ, f3 ¼ 0, fij ¼ 1  ð1  fi Þ
1  fj ði, j ¼ 1, 2, 3Þ, h
i is Macauley brackets,
hxi ¼ ðx þ jxjÞ=2.
Figure 16. Schematic of linear stiffness degradation model.30 The results of FE analysis of the CDM showed a
strong mesh dependency in previous research, as the
dissipated energy is proportional to the failure element
volume. To reduce the error due to meshing quality,
shear stress factors. The results suggest that a linear Bazant31 proposed the crack band model, in which
equation between shear stress factors and fiber content the computed dissipated strain energy is not kept con-
works well for material with vf between 40% and 60%. stant but is adjusted by regularizing the fracture tough-
To characterize the stiffness degradation of the ness using a characteristic dimension of the failed
material, a multi-index method is used to indicate the element (see equation (10)).
damage evolution state in this paper. A damage index is
defined for each failure mode to indicate the damage 2GI 2gI
½"fI ¼ ¼ ðI 2 FT, FC, MT, MC, ISÞ ð10Þ
evolution state (see equation (7)). ½ I l ½ I

   where ½ I is the maximum stress, GI is fracture tough-

½"fI "I  ½"I ness of the material, l is the characteristic length of the
fI ð"I Þ ¼   ½"I  "I  ½"fI ,
"I ½"fI ½"I ð7Þ element. For an unknown crack propagation direction,
the element characteristic length can be defined as equa-
I 2 FT, FC, MT, MC, ISÞ tion (11).16
Z  pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
where ½"fI is the failure equivalent strain of failure mode  4 AIP pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
I. A nonzero value of the damage index can be seen l ¼ d ¼ 1:12 AIP ð11Þ
4 0 cosðÞ
only as the equivalent strain of the failure mode "I
exceeds the critical value ½"I , and
 there is fI ð"I Þ ¼ 1 if where  stands for the angle between crack direction
the material is totally damaged "I ¼ ½"fI . and the mesh lines, AIP is the area related to each inte-
A linear stiffness degradation model proposed by gration point.
Falzon and Apruzzese30 was used in this paper (see For fiber-dominated failure modes (I2FT, FC), ½"fI
Figure 16). The initial section is pure linear in the are assumed to be equal to the critical equivalent strains
absence of damage, and the stiffness begins to degrade ½ I , considering the brittle property of carbon fiber
as the equivalent strain "I exceeds the critical equivalent ð½"fFT ¼ ½"FT , ½"fFC ¼ ½"FC Þ.
strain ½"I (point A); as "I continues increasing, the stiff- For matrix-dominated failure modes (MT/MC/IS),
ness will keep degrading as a result of the release of the damage evolution can be complex due to the com-
elastic strain energy until the material is totally bination of different fracture modes as a result of com-
damaged at point C. plex stress conditions. To take all stress components in
2012 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

each failure mode into account, a mixed-mode fracture

model was used in this project (see equation (12)).

8   2  2
> 2
> g2,I l g12,I l
> k þ G12c þ gG23,I23cl ¼ 1
< G2c
ðI 2 MT, MC; k 2 t, cÞ ð12Þ
>  2 2  
: gG2,I l þ l 2 g212,I þ g213,I ¼ 1 ðI 2 ISÞ
2c G 12c

where g2,I , g12,I , g13,I , g23,I are the dissipated energy

responding to the equivalent strain 2 , 12 , 13 , 23 ,
respectively, in each fracture mode. When material
fails, there exists the relationship

Z ½"fI
1 1
gj,I ¼ j,I d"j,I ½ j,I ½"fj,I ¼ j,I ½ j,I ½"fI ð13Þ
0 2 2

where the subscript j indicates the stress/strain compo-

nent, ½ j,I indicates the stress component when damage
initiates, j,I is the mixed-mode factor and can be deter-
Figure 17. Flow chart of gradual damage analysis.
mined by j,I ¼ "j,I ="I . Then the final equivalent
strain for each fracture mode can be obtained from
equations (12) and (13). The fracture equivalent strain Model validation
in MT failure mode, for instance, can be calculated by
equation (14)
Stiffness prediction
The transverse tensile moduli of UD laminates at

different void levels were predicted using the preceding
2 2,MT ½ 2,MT 2 12,MT ½ 12,MT 2 method as well as the traditional ‘‘rule of mixtures,’’
½"fMT ¼ þ
l Gt2c G12c and the results are compared with the test data in

2 1 ð14Þ Table 6. The fiber/matrix mechanical properties are
23,MT ½ 23,MT 2 listed in Table 8. As can be seen, most of the results
G23c obtained by both the rule of mixtures and the FE
approach based on Mori-Tanaka theory have an
error below 5%, while the results predicted by the
Gradual damage analysis. Based on the CDM latter method show higher accuracy.
aforementioned, the quasi-static failure process of
CFRP-laminated composites with given stacking
sequence and void content can be predicted through
Gradual failure analysis
gradual damage analysis. Figure 17 depicts the flow To validate the present failure analysis method, a
chart of the gradual damage method. In the analysis, numerical gradual damage analysis for composite
the damage initiation and damage evolution of each laminates with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s at various void
element are as described in the preceding CDM in levels was conducted in this research to compare with
local material coordination. An incremental load test data. The FE model of the tensile specimen is
would be applied to the specimen until the final frac- shown in Figure 18. The thickness of each ply is
ture. A gradual damage analytical software module 0.125 mm. The properties of fibers and matrix can be
was developed in this project through Python based found in Tables 7 8. The fiber volume content
on the commercial software ABAQUS. The input vf ¼ 49 %. The shear stress factors can be determined
variables include manufacturing parameters of com- as FT ¼ 0:024, MT ¼ 0:76, MC ¼ 0:74 using the
posite (e.g., number of layers, stacking sequence, and aforementioned method. The geometric parameters
mechanical properties of components) and other par- can be found in Figure 3(c); local elementary coordin-
ameter such as fiber volume fraction and void ate systems were established to define the local fiber
content. orientation. The element type is eight-node brick
Liu et al. 2013

element C3D8R and the adjacent plies were bonded The simulated stress–strain curves of samples at dif-
together by applying tie constraints to the nodes on ferent void levels as well as test results are shown in
interfaces. In gradual damage analysis, the preceding Figure 19. It can be found that the predicted stress–
CDM was implemented to define the intralaminar strain curves demonstrate a good agreement with the
material softening process. Incremental displacement test results, except that a little higher predicted ultimate
loadings were applied to the tabs at both ends to simu- tensile strength can be seen. This may be due to the
late the real loading conditions. transverse cracks initiated in the 90 /45 ply propagat-
ing into the adjacent 0 ply as the loading increases and
accelerating the failure process, which has not been
Table 8. Stiffness data of material components.16,32 taken into account in the present model. Figure 20
depicts the number of damaged elements of each failure
Components E1 E2 ,E3 G12 ,G13 G23 u12 ,u13 u23
mode in the FE model with incremental axial loading.
Toray T300 230 GPa 35 GPa 17 GPa 4.8 GPa 0.3 0.42 The dominant damage modes are matrix tensile
Hexply 924 3.8 GPa 1.34 GPa z0.41 damage and interfacial damage at the early stage, and
these two failure modes are the main driving force of

Figure 18. FE model of tensile specimen.

Figure 19. Stress–strain curves of laminates with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s .

2014 Journal of Composite Materials 52(15)

Figure 20. Number of degraded elements versus applied strain for laminates with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s with void content of 0.6%,
3.8%, and 8.9%.

the stiffness degradation; as the load increases, fiber ½0=  45=0=90s were conducted. The results suggest
breakage can be observed, which leads to the final frac- that both longitudinal and transverse tensile
ture of the samples. As for the influence of void con- strength of UD laminates show an obvious reduc-
tent, samples with an average of 8.9% voids show tion as the void content increases from 0.8% to
matrix/interface damage at a slightly lower loading 9.3%. In addition, the transverse tensile modulus
level compared with those with 0.6%/3.8% voids, shows a decline with the increasing void content,
which reveal the detrimental effect of voids on the ten- while the longitudinal tensile modulus is not
sile properties of CFRP laminates. affected by the voids. Finally, the tensile strength
of laminates with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s is also
influenced by the presence of voids; earlier delam-
Conclusion ination can be observed for the laminates with
higher void content as a result of the lower inter-
1. A void morphological study for T300/924 laminates laminar strength.
at different void levels fabricated by controlling com- 3. The effects of voids on the stiffness of CFRP
pression pressure in compression molding was con- composites were quantitatively evaluated through a
ducted with the implementation of a DM analysis prediction method based on the Mori-Tanaka
method. Three parameters, namely, void content, method and a fiber randomly distributed RVE
equivalent diameter, and aspect ratio of voids, model. Additionally, gradual damage analysis
were analyzed. The results indicate that low curing method based on the modified CDM for CFRP-
pressure can greatly enhance the resulting void con- laminated composites with the presence of voids
tent. As for the morphological parameters, the inter- was used to predict the quasi-static failure process
laminar voids have an average larger size than the of laminates with given stacking sequence and void
intralaminar voids; moreover, the average equivalent content. The present method is able to capture the
diameter of voids increases with increasing void con- effect of voids by the introduction of void content
tent, whereas the average aspect ratio of voids into the conventional model. By comparing the pre-
remains relatively stable as the void content dicted stress–strain curves and experimental results
increases from 0.8% to 9.3%. of samples with lay-ups ½0=  45=0=90s and void
2. Longitudinal/transverse quasi-static tensile tests for content of 0.6%, 3.8%, and 8.9%, a good correl-
T300/924 UD laminates as well as tensile tests for ation can be found between the simulation results
laminates with a stacking sequence of and the test data.
Liu et al. 2015

Declaration of Conflicting Interests of carbon/epoxy and carbon/bismaleimide fabric lamin-

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with ates. Compos Sci Technol 2001; 61: 2101–2108.
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this 14. Hashin Z. Failure criteria for unidirectional fiber com-
article. posites. J Appl Mech 1980; 47: 329–334.
15. Camanho PP and Dávila CG. Mixed-mode decohesion
finite elements for the simulation of delamination in com-
posite materials. NASA/TM-2002-211737. Hampton,
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial sup- Virginia, USA: NASA Langley Research Center, 2002.
port for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this 16. HexPly 924. (180 C curing epoxy matrix) Product data.
article: This work was supported by University Research Connecticut, USA: Hexcel Corporation, 2007.
Program funded by Ford Motor Company (grant number 17. Eric Little J, Yuan X and Jones MI. Characterisation of
2013–5097R). voids in fibre reinforced composite materials. NDT&E Int
2012; 46: 122–127.
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