Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 12-2009


Research in the field of crashworthiness of composite materials is presented. A new crush test method was produced to characterize the crush behavior of composite laminates. In addition, a model of the crush behavior and a method for rank ordering the energy absorption capability of various laminates were developed. The new crush test method was used for evaluating the crush behavior of flat carbon/epoxy composite specimens at quasi-static and dynamic rates. The University of Utah crush test fixture was designed to support the flat specimen against catastrophic buckling. A gap, where the specimen is unsupported, allowed unhindered crushing of the specimen. In addition, the specimen's failure modes could be clearly observed during crush testing. Extensive crush testing was conducted wherein the crush force and displacement data were collected to calculate the energy absorption, and high speed video was captured during dynamic testing. Crush tests were also performed over a range of fixture gap heights. The basic failure modes were buckling, crack growth, and fracture. Gap height variations resulted in poorly, properly, and overly constrained specimens. In addition, guidelines for designing a composite laminate for crashworthiness were developed.

Modeling of the crush behavior consisted of the delamination and fracture of a single ply or group of like plies during crushing. Delamination crack extension was modeled using the mode I energy release rate, G1c. where an elastica approach was used to obtain the strain energy. Variations in G1c were briefly explored with double cantilever beam tests wherein crack extension occurred along a multidirectional ply interface. The model correctly predicted the failure modes for most of the test cases, and offered insight into how the input parameters affect the model. The ranking method related coefficients of the laminate and sublaminate stiffness matrices, the ply locations within the laminate, and the laminate thickness. The ranking method correctly ordered the laminates tested in this study with respect to their energy absorption.