- The fatigue life behaviour and the underlying micromechanisms have been studied in two different types of unidirectional carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics loaded in tension-tension along the fibre direction. The carbon fibres (AS4) were the same in the two composite systems. One thermoplastic matrix (polyetheretherketone, PEEK) and one thermosetting matrix (epoxy toughened with a thermoplastic additive) were used. The macroscopic fatigue behaviour was characterized by fatigue life diagrams. Surface replicas were taken intermittently during the course of the fatigue tests to monitor the active fatigue damage micromechanisms. The thermoset based composite showed a higher fatigue resistance with few microcracks initiated at distributed fibre breaks growing at a decelerating rate. The thermoplastic composite had a more pronounced fatigue degradation with a steeper fatigue life curve, which was caused by widespread propagating debonds and matrix cracks. The use of a tougher and more ductile matrix results in an inferior fatigue life performance, due to a more widely distributed accumulation of damage that propagates at a higher rate.