In order to reduce the weight of automobiles and aircrafts, lightweight materials, such as aluminum alloy, advanced high strength steel, composite materials, are widely used to replace the traditional materials like mild steel. Composite materials are complicated in material mechanical properties and less investigated compared to metallic materials. Engineering composites can be categorized into polymer matrix composites (PMCs), metal matrix composites (MMCs) and ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) according to their matrix materials. A set of mechanical experiments ranging from micro scale (single fiber composite and thin film composite) to macro scale (PMCs and MMCs) were conducted to fully understand the material behavior of composite materials. Loading conditions investigated includes uniaxial tension, three-point bending, uniaxial compression, simple shear, tension combined with shear, and compression combined with shear. For single fiber composite and thin-film composite, details of each composition are modelled. For the PMCs and MMCs which have plenty of reinforcements like fibers and particles, the details of the composition of structures cannot be modelled due to the current limitations of computing power. A mechanics framework of composite materials including elasticity, plasticity, failure initiation and post failure softening is proposed and applied to two types of composite materials. Uniaxial tension loading is applied to several single fiber composites and thin film composites. A surprising phenomenon, controllable and sequential fragmentation of the brittle fiber to produce uniformly sized rods along meters of polymer cladding, rather than the expected random or chaotic fragmentation, is observed with a necking propagation process. A combination of necking propagation model, fiber cracking model and interfacial model are proposed and applied to the finite element simulations. Good predictions of necking propagation and uniform fragmentation phenomenon are achieved. This modeling method of the micro-scale phenomenon reveals the physics inside composites in micro scale and helps the understanding of the process of nano fragmentation. Unidirectional carbon fiber composites were tested under multi-axial loading conditions including tensile/compression/shear loadings along and perpendicular to the fiber direction. Compression dominated tests showed a brittle fracture mode like local kicking/buckling, while tension dominated tests showed a fracture mode like delamination and fiber breakage. Simple shear tests with displacement control showed matrix material hardening and softening before total failure. The proposed modeling framework is successfully applied to the PMCs. A new parameter ψ was introduced to represent different loading conditions of PMCs. Numerical simulations using finite element method well duplicated the anisotropic elasticity and plasticity of this material. Failure features like delamination was simulated using cohesive surface feature. It is also applied to carbon fiber composite laminates to further validate the proposed model. A round of experimental study on high volume fraction of metallic matrix nano composites was conducted, including uniaxial tension, uniaxial compression, and three-point bending. The example materials were two magnesium matrix composites reinforced with 10 and 15% vol. SiC particles (50nm size). Brittle fracture mode was exhibited under uniaxial tension and three-point bending, while shear dominated ductile fracture mode (up to 12% fracture strain) was observed under uniaxial compression. Transferring the Modified Mohr Coulomb (MMC) ductile fracture model to the stress based MMC model (sMMC), the proposed modeling framework is applied to this material. This model has been demonstrated to be capable of predicting the coexistence of brittle and ductile fracture modes under different loading conditions for MMCs. Numerical simulations using finite element method well duplicated the material strength, fracture initiation sites and crack propagation modes of the Mg/SiC nano composites with a good accuracy.

Graduation Date





Bai, Yuanli


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering









Release Date

May 2018

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)