Collaborative Research: Fatigue and Lifetime Performance of Polymer Sandwich Constructions--A Multi-scale Experiment and Modeling Approach.-
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Polymer foam core sandwich composites have been utilized for modern marine vessels, civil infrastructures and large wind turbine blades. These structures experience continuous cycles of loadings and continuous exposure to hostile environments, which could lead to degradation in the materials and structural failures. Our aim is to predict the time when global failure starts, and its critical location in the sandwich structures during their service. This will be achieved through the development of material and structural models for the sandwich structures that incorporate the time-dependent mechanical loadings coupled with thermal and moisture diffusion, and degradation in the properties of the constituents. A comprehensive testing scheme including accelerated fatigue tests will be conducted on the sandwich composite and its constituents at different loading histories and various moisture and temperature conditions. The experimental results will be used to characterize the material parameters in the time-dependent (creep) material model, hygro-thermal diffusions, and degradation model for each component of the sandwich structures and verify the prediction of the time and mode when fatigue failure initiates in the sandwich structures. The thick and multi-layered nature of sandwich structures lead to multiple failure mechanisms, which can be difficult to detect from their surfaces. Currently, fatigue failure in sandwich composites has been determined mainly by counting the number of repeated loading cycles until overall failure is observed in the composites without any explanation on the failure mechanisms and consideration of the environmental conditions. The results of this study will significantly improve our understanding on the life performance and fatigue failure mechanisms in many structures and infrastructures made of polymer sandwich composites undergoing mechanical loadings while being exposed to hostile environments. The research outcomes will help engineers in improving the design of structures/infrastructures made of these composites in order to avoid catastrophic failures. This information can also help manufacturers and researchers designing better quality polymeric composites. The proposed modeling concept will address the above challenges, which will enhance the reliability of polymeric sandwich structures and hence public safety.