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Polymer fibre composites : investigation into performance enhancement through viscoelastically generated pre-stress

Fazal, Adnan


Adnan Fazal


Kevin S. Fancey

Catherine Anne Dobson


In this research, the performance and further development of viscoelastically pre-stressed polymer matrix composites (VPPMCs) was investigated. Pre-stressed composite samples with continuous unidirectional fibres are produced by applying a tensile load to polymeric fibres to induce tensile creep. After removing the load, the fibres are moulded in a polyester resin. Following resin curing, compressive stresses are imparted by the viscoelastically strained fibres as they attempt to recover their strain against the surrounding solid matrix material. Prior to this study, VPPMCs using nylon 6,6 fibres increased impact energy absorption and flexural modulus by 30-50% relative to control (un-stressed) counterparts. The current work contributes to ongoing efforts in VPPMC research by expanding the knowledge of existing VPPMC materials and identifying the potential for an alternative, mechanically superior polymeric fibre.

For nylon 6,6 fibre-based VPPMCs, the effects of Charpy impact span settings and fibre volume fraction (3-17% Vf) were investigated. The effects of commingling nylon pre-stressing fibres with Kevlar fibres to produce hybrid VPPMCs was also evaluated. Moreover, as an alternative to nylon fibre, the viscoelastic characteristics and subsequent VPPMC performance of polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibre was investigated. Charpy impact and three-point bend tests were used to evaluate VPPMC samples against control (un-stressed) counterparts. In addition, microscopy techniques were applied to impact-tested samples, to analyse fracture behaviour.

For the nylon fibre-based VPPMCs, it was found that improvements in impact energy absorption from pre-stress depended principally on shear stresses activating fibre-matrix debonding during the impact process. Scanning electron microscopy of impact-tested samples revealed visual evidence of pre-stress impeding crack propagation. A short span setting (24 mm) showed greater increases in energy absorption of 25-40%, compared with samples tested at a larger span (60 mm) which gave increases of 0-13%. The results suggest that there is an increasing contribution to energy absorption from elastic deflection at larger span settings; this causes lower energy absorption as well as reducing any improvements from pre-stress effects. However, this effect was suppressed by the addition of Kevlar fibres (to produce hybrid VPPMCs), which promoted more effective energy absorption at the larger span. Moreover, bend tests on the hybrid composites demonstrated that pre-stressing further enhanced flexural modulus by ~35%.

The viscoelastic characteristics of UHMWPE fibres indicated that these fibres could release stored energy for pre-stressing over a long time period. This was effectively demonstrated with UHMWPE fibre-based VPPMCs using three-point bend tests, i.e. flexural modulus increased by 25-35% from pre-stressing with no deterioration observed over the time scale investigated (~2 years). Also, these VPPMCs absorbed ~20% more impact energy than their control counterparts, with some batches reaching 30-40%. Although fibre-matrix debonding is known to be a major energy absorption mechanism, this was not evident in the UHMWPE fibre-based VPPMCs. Instead, evidence of debonding at the skin-core interface within the UHMWPE fibres was found. This is believed to be a previously unrecognised energy absorption mechanism.

This work contributes to a further understanding of the viscoelastic properties of polymeric fibres and insight into the field of pre-stressed composite materials. The findings support the view that VPPMCs can provide a means to improve impact toughness and other mechanical characteristics for composite applications.


Fazal, A. (2014). Polymer fibre composites : investigation into performance enhancement through viscoelastically generated pre-stress. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 29, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Engineering
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Engineering, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2014


Thesis (7.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Fazal, Adnan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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