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The Effects of Hygrothermal Aging on the Impact Penetration Resistance of Triaxially Braided Composites



An experimental study was conducted to measure the effects of long term hygrothermal aging on the impact penetration resistance of triaxially braided polymer composites. Flat panels of three different materials were subjected to repeated cycles of high and low temperature and high and low humidity for two years. Samples of the panels were periodically tested under impact loading during the two year time period. The purpose of the study was to identify and quantify any degradation in impact penetration resistance of these composites under cyclic temperature and humidity conditions experienced by materials in the fan section of commercial gas turbine engines for a representative aircraft flight cycle. The materials tested consisted of Toray ® T700S carbon fibers in a 2D triaxial braid with three different resins, Cycom® PR520, a toughened resin, Hercules® 3502, an untoughened resin and EPON 862, intermediate between the two. The fiber preforms consisted of a quasi-isotropic 0/+60/-60 braid with 24K tows in the axial direction and 12K tows in the bias directions. The composite panels were manufactured using a resin transfer molding process producing panels with a thickness of 0.125 inches. The materials were tested in their as-processed condition and again after one year and two years of aging (1.6 years in the case of E862). The aging process involved subjecting the test panels to two cycles per day of high and low temperature and high and low humidity. A temperature range of -60°F to 250°F and a humidity range of 0 to 85% rh was used to simulate extreme conditions for composite components in the fan section of a commercial gas turbine engine. Additional testing was conducted on the as-processed PR520 composite under cryogenic conditions. After aging there was some change in the failure pattern, but there was no reduction in impact penetration threshold for any of the three systems, and in the case of the 3502 system, a significant increase in penetration threshold. There was also an increase in the penetration resistance of the PR520 system impacted under cryogenic conditions.

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