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Predictions of the strength of fiber reinforced composite materials
has not achieved the levels which stiffness predictions reached.
Nevertheless, there are physical models for the strength
characteristics of a matrix reinforced by fibers, which represent a very
high degree of integration of physical observation with the
mechanical description of a phenomena.
Major topics which have been under investigation for many years are
Tensile Strength
Compressive Strength
However, to date, little work has been done on other topics of
obvious importance such as prediction of shear strength.
Tensile strength in the Fiber direction:
A unidirectional fiber reinforced composite material deforms as the
load increases in the following four stages, more or less depending on
the relative brittleness or ductility of the fibers and the matrix:
1. Both fibers and matrix deform elastically.
2. The fibers continue to deform elastically, but the matrix deforms plastically.
3. Both the fibers and matrix deforms plastically.
4. The fibers fracture followed by fracture of the composite material.
Tensile strength will be examined by use of a model with fibers that
all have the same strength in addition to a model in which the fibers
have a statistical strength distribution.
Fibers of Equal Strength:
All the fibers have the same strength and
are relatively brittle in comparison to the
Both the fibers and matrix are active only
in the linear elastic range (stage-1)
When the Vf values are considerable
in the composite material, the
ultimate strength is achieved when
the fibers are strained to correspond
to their maximum stress.
If the fiber strain is presumed equal
to the matrix strain in the direction of
the fibers, then the strength of the
composite material is

Obviously, if fiber reinforcement is to

lead to a greater strength that can be
obtained with the matrix alone, then
The critical Vf that must be exceeded to obtain fiber strengthening of
the composite material is

When the Vf values are small, the behavior of the composite material
would be different i.e. the matrix dominates the composite material
and fibers would just follow their elongation.
Thus, the fibers would fracture for small loads when subjected to high
strains. And if all the fibers break at the same strain, then the
composite material will fracture unless the matrix can take the entire
load imposed on the composite material, i.e.

Thus, in this case matrix is the only contributor to the composite

material strength.
Finally, the entire composite material fails after fracture of the fibers

So the minimum Vf for validity of the equation obtained is

The above obtained Vf critical and Vf minimum equations can be

easily understood when they are plotted.
When Vf < Vmin, the composite material
strength is controlled by the matrix
deformation and is actually less than the
matrix strength.
When Vf > Vmin, but < Vfcritcal, the
composite material strength is controlled by
the fiber deformation, but the composite
material strength is still less than the inherent
matrix strength.
Only when Vf exceeds Vfcritical does the
composite material gain strength from having
fiber reinforcement.
Then, the composite material strength is
controlled by the fiber deformations because
Vf > Vfmin.
Fibers with Statistical Strength Distribution:
The preceding analysis is focused on having continuous fibers of equal
strength all of which fracture at the same position. However this
doesnt happen in practical situations due to surface imperfections
varying from fiber to fiber, the individual fibers have different fracture
Hence, a statistical analysis is then necessary to rationally define the
strength of the composite material.
Rosen analyzed the strength of the composite materials reinforced
by fibers with a statistical strength distribution.
Here, one among the fibers is broken.
Due to this, there would be subsequent
fiber fractures.
This broken fiber is subjected to high
stress enough to initiate fracture at a
surface imperfection.
Stress distribution around the fracture
occurs. High shear stresses are
developed in the matrix over a short
distance from the fiber break.
The longitudinal fiber stress is thereby
increased from zero at the break to the
stress level of any other fiber in the
composite material far from the break.
Failure of the composite material can occur in two ways.
1. Matrix shear stress around the fiber could exceed the allowable matrix
shear stress.
2. The fiber fracture could actually propagate across the matrix through other
fibers and hence cause overall fracture of the composite material.
By use of Statistical analysis, Dow and Rosen obtained

where sigma ref is a reference stress level that is a function of the fiber
and matrix properties and is a statistical parameter in the Weibull
distribution of fiber strength.
Rosens results are plotted for =7.7, a
represent value for commercial E-
glass fibers.

Here tensile strength of the matrix is

ignored because it is much less than the
fiber tensile strength.
Here the Vf from the Rosens results
would not reach 1 because the
maximum density as hexagonal array
of uniform diameter fibers is around
Definitive studies of composite material tensile strength from a micromechanics
point of view simply do not exist. Obviously, much work remains in this area before
composite materials can be accurately designed, i.e., constituents chosen and
proportioned to resist a specified tensile stress.