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Nano-modified carbon-epoxy composite structures for aerospace applications.

Pozegic, Thomas R. (2016) Nano-modified carbon-epoxy composite structures for aerospace applications. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) have revolutionised industries that demand high specific strength materials. With current advancements in nanotechnology there exists an opportunity to not only improve the mechanical performance of CFRP, but to also impart other functionalities, such as thermal and electrical conductivity, with the aim of reducing the reliance on metals, making CFRP attractive to many other industries. This thesis provides a comprehensive analysis of the nano-phase modification to CFRP by growing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on carbon fibre (CF) and performing mechanical, electrical and thermal conductivity tests, with comparisons made against standard CFRP. Typical CFs are coated with a polymer sizing that plays a vital role in the mechanical performance of the composite, but as a consequence of CNT growth, it is removed. Therefore, in addition, an ‘intermediate’ composite was fabricated – based on CFs without a polymer sizing – which enabled a greater understanding of how the mechanical properties and processability of the material responds to the CNT modification. A water-cooled chemical vapour deposition system was employed for CNT growth and infused into a composite structure with an industrially relevant vacuum-assisted resin transfer moulding (VARTM) process. High quality CNTs were grown on the CF, resulting in properties not reported to date, such as strong intra-tow binding, leading to the possibility of a polymer sizing-free CFRP. A diverse set of spectroscopic, microscopic and thermal measurements were carried out to aid understanding for this CNT modification. Subsequent electrical conductivity tests performed in three directions showed 300%, 230% and 450% improvements in the ‘surface’, ‘through-thickness’ and ‘through-volume’ directions, for the CNT modified CFRP, respectively. In addition, thermal conductivity measurements performed in the through-thickness direction also gave improvements in excess of 98%, boding well for multifunctional applications of this hybrid material concept. A range of mechanical tests were performed to monitor the effect of the CNT modification, including: single fibre tensile tests, tow pull-out tests (from the polymer matrix), composite tensile tests, in-plane shear tests and interlaminar toughness tests. Single fibre tensile tests demonstrated a performance reduction of only 9.7% after subjecting the fibre to the low temperature CNT growth process, which is significantly smaller than previous reports. A reduction in tensile performance was observed in the composite tensile test however, with a reduction of 33% reduction in the ultimate tensile strength, but a 146% increase in the Young’s modulus suggests that the CNTs may have improved the interfacial interactions between the fibre and the polymer matrix. To support this, improvements of 20% in the in-plane shear stress and 74% and the shear chord modulus, were recorded. Negligible differences were observed using a pull-out test to directly measure the interfacial strength as a consequence of the inherently difficult mechanical test procedure. The fracture toughness was tested under mode-I loading of a double cantilever beam configuration and improvements of 83% for CNT modified composite alluded to CNT pull-out fracture mechanism and crack propagation amongst the microstructures. The changes in the physical properties are correlated to the microstructure modifications ensured by the low temperature CNT growth on the CF substrates used in the CFRP composites. This allows for a new generation of modified multifunctional CFRPs to be produced.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Pozegic, Thomas
Date : 29 January 2016
Funders : EPSRC, Bombardier Aerospace
Contributors :
Depositing User : Thomas Pozegic
Date Deposited : 09 Feb 2016 10:42
Last Modified : 29 Jan 2019 02:08

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