Thermoplastic Sizings: Effects on Processing, Mechanical Performance, and Interphase Formation in Pultruded Carbon Fiber/Vinyl-Ester Composites

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Virginia Tech

Sizings, a thin polymer coating applied to the surface of the carbon fiber before impregnation with the matrix, have been shown to affect the mechanical performance of the composite. These sizings affect the processability of the carbon fiber that translates into a composite with less fiber breakage and improved fiber/matrix adhesion. In addition, the interdiffusion of the sizing and the bulk matrix results in the formation of an interphase. This interphase can alter damage initiation and propagation that can ultimately affect composite performance. The overall objective of the work detailed in this thesis is to ascertain the effects that thermoplastic sizing agents have on composite performance and determine the phenomenological events associated with the effects.

All of the thermoplastic sizings had improved processability over the traditional G' sizing. These improvements in processability translated into a composite with less fiber damage and improved surface quality. In addition, all of the thermoplastic sizings outperformed the industrial benchmark sizing G' by at least 25% in static tensile strength, 11% in longitudinal flexure strength, and 30% in short beam shear strength. All moduli were found to be unaffected by the addition of a sizing.

The interphase formed in K-90 PVP sized carbon fiber composites was fundamentally predicted from the constitutive properties of K-90 PVP/Derakane™ interdiffusion and fundamental mass transport equations. The K-90 PVP sizing material interdiffusing with the Derakane™ matrix was found to be dissolution controlled. The dissolution diffusion coefficient had an exponential concentration dependence. Fundamental mass transport models were utilized to predict the interphase profile. The predicted K-90 PVP interphase concentration profile displayed steep gradients at the fiber/matrix interface but essentially no gradients at points distant from the fiber surface. The predicted mechanical property profile was essentially flat for the modulus but did show a steep gradient in the strain-to-failure and shrinkage properties. However, the K-90 PVP interphase compared to the unsized/pure Derakane™ interphase showed improvements in strength and strain-to-failure and a reduction in cure shrinkage without significantly affecting the interphase tensile or shear moduli.

Sizings, Pultrusion, Interdiffusion, Finite element method, Composites