Solvent induced microcracking in high performance polymeric composites
The first paper, “Dye Penetrant Induced Microcracking in High-Performance Thermoplastic Polyimide Composites”, studied the possibility of spurious microcracking in three high-performance thermoplastic polyimide composite materials due to zinc iodine dye penetrant. The material systems were IM7/LaRC™-IAX, IM7/LaRC™-IAX2, and IM7/LaRC™-8515. Specimens from each material system were subjected to one of three immersion tests. The first immersion test involved soaking composite specimens previously prepared with different polishing techniques in dye penetrant. In the second test, specimens were immersed in the individual components of the dye penetrant. The final test involved exposure of specimens to one of six solvents followed by exposure to dye penetrant. Results showed that the composite materials have sufficiently high thermal residual stresses to drive microcracking in the presence of dye penetrant without external mechanical loading. There was no evidence that the different polishing techniques had an effect on dye penetrant-induced stress cracking. The dye penetrant components did not produce microcracks in the composites. Some combination of the components must be present to induce microcracking. Observations also revealed that polishing had an effect on the microcracking process of the composites that were initially exposed to solvents then dye penetrant.
The second paper, “The Effect of Environmental Stress Cracking on High-Performance Polymeric Composites”, studied solvent stress cracking and solvent-induced strength degradation on four polyimide matrix materials developed at NASA-Langley Research Center. These materials are LaRC™-IAX, LaRC™-IAX2, LaRC™-8515, and LaRC™-PETI-5. Cross-ply specimens were used to characterize solvent stress cracking in composites. Matrix cracking due to solvent exposure was observed in all of the materials. The solvent exposure time of the materials ranged from 1 minute to 96 hours. The results show that residual thermal stresses due to processing in the cross-ply composite specimens are sufficient to drive solvent stress cracking in the matrix. Solvent application lowers the microcracking toughness, Gmc ,values such that the available strain energy, Gm, within the transverse ply groups is sufficient to initiate microcracking. In the absence of a solvent, the same Gm value would not induce microcracking.
Transverse flexure tests were performed on unidirectional specimens to determine the effects of the solvents on the material strengths. The presence of certain solvents severely degraded the materials. The manner in which the solvents were applied to the materials determined the degree of material degradation. The results revealed a synergistic effect between stress and solvent.
The tests showed that diglyme, MEK, and acetone produced the most severe damage to the materials. The most solvent resistant material was LaRC™-PETI-5. This is followed by LaRC™-8515, LaRC™-IAX2, and LaRC™-IAX respectively. LaRC™- PETI-5 is a thermoset whereas the remaining materials are thermoplastics.