Fracture response of fibre-reinforced materials with macro/microcrack damage using the Boundary Element Technique

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The Boundary Element Method (BEM) incorporating the Embedded Cell Approach (ECA) has been used to analyse the effects of constituent material properties, fibre spatial distribution and microcrack damage on the localised behaviour of transversely fractured, unidirectional fibre-reinforced composites. Three specific composites, i.e., glass fibre reinforced polyester, carbon fibre reinforced epoxy and a glass-carbon hybrid, are considered. The geometrical structures examined were perfectly periodic, uniformly spaced fibre arrangements in square and hexagonal embedded cells. In addition, numerical simulations were also conducted using embedded cells containing randomly distributed fibres. The models involve both elastic fibres and matrix, with the interfaces between the different phases being fully bonded. The results indicate that the constituent material properties (two phase composite) and spatial distribution have a significant effect on the localised stress distributions around the primary crack tip. However, the strain energy release rate associated with crack propagation is predominantly influenced by the material composition. The three-phase hybrid composite exhibited an apparent intermediate fracture toughness value, compared to the all-glass and all-carbon models. Furthermore, the strain energy release rate for the macrocrack lowers as it enters a zone of localised damage (microcracking). The presence of microcracks relaxes the stress field, which can result in a significant reduction in the energetics of the primary crack.

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