Sue, Ji Woong (2006-12). Effect of microstructure of closed cell foam on strength and effective stiffness. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This research is concerned with the modeling and failure analysis of closed cell foam with various scales of microstructure that is disordered due to defects. This foam material is used for the forward bipod closeout on the space shuttle external tank. Three dimensional finite element simulations of closed cell foams with various microstructures are performed to study the influence of the geometric character of the microstructure (eg. defect size and distribution) on the stiffness and failure behavior of the foam. First, regularly arrayed cells are modeled for a reference to compare with the disordered microstructure. For studying the effect of cellular microstructure, a discrete model is developed where in every edge and face of each cell are modeled. Two types of defects, point defects (void) and area defects (knot), are indicated from the examination of BX250 and BX265 polyurethane foams. However, this research is focused on the point defect. Analyzing a material with such complex microstructure is especially challenging in terms of computation power as well as required modeling techniques. A finite element model consisting of only beam and shell elements was developed. Certain complications that arise from using beam and shell elements were resolved using novel techniques. Stiffness predictions from the model agreed with data from the literature for a wide range of relative densities. Parametric studies were performed to examine the effect of different properties, such as relative densities and edge fraction, on the effective stiffness, Von Mises stress, and buckling stress. The thickness of the face plays an important role in the behavior of the foam material. Linear buckling and postbuckling analyses were performed to understand the effect of local buckling on the effective properties of the foam and stress concentrations. A distorted multicell model was developed to analyze the effect of point defects on the foam behavior. In particular, two geometric parameters, the defect size and the defect density (or the distance between two defects) were varied to find their effect on the stress concentrations and the effective stiffness of the foam. It is seen that the discrete model that accounts for the foam microstructure reveals much more about the foam behavior than a homogenous model.

publication date

  • December 2006