Simulation of Enviro-mechanical Durability for Life Prediction of E-Glass/Vinyl Ester Composites using a Bridge Service Environment

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Virginia Tech


In order for composites to become an accepted material for infrastructure application, life prediction and durability must be understood. The majority of studies have examined the strength and fatigue response of composites under hot and/or moist conditions. Various researchers have also studied life prediction methods for composite materials under fatigue, primarily for high performance applications. Little work has been done to study durability under combined service conditions for composites used in civil infrastructure applications.

This thesis focuses on the development of a life prediction model for use with fiber reinforced polymer composites in bridge service environments. The Tom's Creek Bridge of Blacksburg, VA is used as a guiding case study. First, the tensile properties of the composite were studied as a function of temperature and moisture. Damage accumulation was studied as a function of cyclic loading and temperature cycles. The enviro-mechanical conditions, including moisture, temperature and fatigue loading, were then used in a computer simulation to predict the life of a vinyl ester/glass composite under an approximate bridge service environment.

Finally, a laboratory simulation was conducted that approximates the temperature and humidity that is seen at the Tom's Creek Bridge, but in an accelerated time frame. A multi-stress fatigue pattern, mimicking cars and trucks passing over the bridge, was used. One year of conditions was accelerated to approximately six hours and thirty-three minutes using a servo-hydraulic test frame and environmental chamber.

The final results showed that life prediction methodology conservatively predicted the lifetime of a vinyl ester/glass composite under the enviro-mechanical conditions. The damage of the composite was predominately driven by cyclic loading. The environmental conditions of moisture and temperature had only a small affect on the lifetime of the composite. This lack of environmental sensitivity is largely due to the durability of the resin system.



Life Prediction, Moisture Diffusion, Fatigue, Environmental Durability, Glass Composites