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Research project: Parameterisation and optimisation of impact and post-impact performance of composites for airframe light weighting

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Carbon fibre reinforced plastics are inherently prone to damage due to out-of-plane impacts. Even barely visible impact damage can cause large reductions in the strength of the composite.  Hence, how do the component properties influence the fracture mechanisms and impact performance of the composite? Are there any measurable parameters that can be used to determine whether a material has good or bad impact properties? The outcomes of the results will be incorporated into finite element simulation tools for predicting impact and post-impact failure performance.

The use of carbon fibre reinforced plastics in the transport sector has been increasing in recent times. However, the main concern about using carbon composites is due to their poor resistance to impact damage. Even when damage is not clearly visible on the surface of the material, internal damage may still significantly reduce the composite's properties. Although there are several forms of toughening mechanisms that can improve a composite's resistance to impact damage, there is relatively little knowledge surrounding the micromechanical responses that can now be observed using Computed Tomography (CT). This project will apply an innovative Data Rich Mechanics approach to the problem of assessing and predicting impact performance (damage resistance and damage tolerance) in carbon-fibre reinforces plastics. This will be achieved through the use of 3-D Computed Tomography, and related/complementary methods, generating the necessary quantitative tools for future light-weighting of aerospace and other transport sector applications of fibre reinforced plastics.

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