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Experimental and Computational Investigations of Process-Induced Stress Effects on the Interlaminar Fracture Toughness of Hybrid Composites



Hybrid composites allow designers to develop efficient structures, which strategically exploit a material’s strengths while mitigating possible weaknesses. However, elevated temperature curing processes and exposure to thermally-extreme service environments lead to the development of residual stresses. These stresses form at the hybrid composite’s bi-material interfaces, significantly impacting the stress state at the crack tip of any pre-existing flaw within the structure and affecting the probability that small defects will grow into large-scale delaminations. Therefore, in this study, a carbon fiber reinforced composite (CFRP) is co-cured with a glass fiber reinforced composite (GFRP), and the mixed-mode fracture toughness is measured across a wide temperature range (-54°C to +71°C). Upon completion of the testing, the measured results and observations are used to develop high-fidelity finite element models simulating both the formation of residual stresses throughout the composite manufacturing process, as well as the mixed-mode testing of the hybrid composite. The stress fields predicted through simulation assist in understanding the trends observed during the completed experiments. Furthermore, the modeled predictions indicate that failure to account for residual stress effects during the analysis of composite structures could lead to non-conservative structural designs and premature failure.


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