Carbon, epoxy, composite, UV, degradation


As the use of fiber reinforced plastics increases in such industries as aerospace, wind energy, and sporting goods, factors effecting long-term durability, such as environmental exposure, are of increasing interest. The primary objectives of this study were to examine the effects of extensive environmental exposure (specifically UV radiation and moisture) on carbon/epoxy composite laminate structures and to determine the relative effectiveness of polymer-based coatings at mitigating degradation incurred due to such exposure. Carbon/epoxy composite specimens, both coated and uncoated, were subjected to accelerated weathering in which prolonged outdoor exposure was simulated by controlling the radiation wavelength (in the UV region), temperature, and humidity. Mechanical test data obtained for the uncoated specimens indicated a reduction in strength of approximately 6% after an environmental exposure duration of 750 hours. Test data revealed that no further degradation occurred with increased exposure duration. This reduction resulted from the erosion of the epoxy matrix in additional to the formation of matrix microcracks. The protective coatings evaluated were all epoxy based and included two different surfacing films applied during initial cure of the carbon/epoxy composite laminate and a chromate containing epoxy based paint primer applied after the cure was complete. Although the chromate primer performed well initially, degradation of the underlying substrate was detected with extended exposure durations. In contrast, the surfacing films provided superior protection against environmentally induced degradation. Although similar degradation attributes were identified in the surfacing film as observed in the uncoated composite, it is likely that this degradation was either confined within the surfacing film layer or only penetrated the very near surface of the carbon/epoxy substrate, as it did not result in a substantial reduction in mechanical strength.


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Graduation Date



Sohn, Yongho


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering








Release Date

December 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)