Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Engineering Mechanics

Committee Director

Ram Prabhakaren

Committee Member

Stephen Cupschalk

Committee Member

K. Williamson

Committee Member

T. W. Coats


Pultruded composites are candidate materials for civil engineering infrastructural applications due their higher corrosion resistance and lower life cycle cost. Efficient use of materials like structural members requires thorough understanding of the mechanism that affects their response. The present investigation addresses the modeling and characterization of E-glass fiber/polyester resin matrix pultruded composites in the form of sheets of various thicknesses.

The elastic constants were measured using static, vibration and ultrasonic methods. Two types of piezoelectric crystals were used in ultrasonic measurements. Finally, the feasibility of using a single specimen, in the form of a circular disk, was shown in measuring all the elastic constants using ultrasonic technique.

The effects of stress gradient on tensile strength were investigated. A large number of specimens, parallel and transverse to the pultrusion direction, were tested in tension, 3-point flexure, and 4-point flexure. A 2-parameter Weibull model was applied to predict the tensile strength from the flexure tests. The measured and Weibull-predicted ratios did not show consistent agreement. Microstructural observations suggested that the flaw distribution in the material was not uniform, which appears to be a basic requirement for the Weibull distribution.

Compressive properties were measured using a short-block compression test specimen of 44.4-mm long and 25.4-mm wide. Specimens were tested at 0°, 30°, 45°, 60° and 90° orientations. The compression test specimen was modeled using 4-noded isoparametric layered plate and shell elements. The predicted elastic properties for the roving layer and the continuous strand mat layer was used for the finite element study.

The damage resistance and damage tolerance were investigated experimentally. Using a quasi-static indentation loading, damage was induced at various incrementally increased force levels to investigate the damage growth process. Damage parameters were measured in the form of dent depth, back surface crack length, and damage area. The compression tests were performed, using an end-gripped compression test fixture, on both the damaged specimens and open-hole specimens. A relationship between the compressive strength and hole-diameter was established. The compressive strength of damaged specimens was compared to determine the “equivalent-hole-diameter.” A correlation between damage parameters and the “equivalent-hole-diameter” was established to find a parameter that could be used as a measure of damage resistance and damage tolerance of pultruded composite structures.