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Assessing the structural integrity of carbon-fibre sandwich panels in fire: Bench-scale approach

: Schartel, B.; Humphrey, J.K.; Gibson, A.G.; Hörold, A.; Trappe, V.; Gettwert, Volker


Composites. Part B, Engineering 164 (2019), pp.82-89
ISSN: 1359-8368
ISSN: 1879-1069
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ICT ()
carbon fibre; fracture; high-temperature property; sandwich; structural composite; surface treatment

The fire resistance of lightweight sandwich panels (SW) with carbon fibre/epoxy skins and a poly(methacryl imide) (PMI) foam core is investigated in compression under direct application of a severe flame (heat flux = 200 kW m(-2)). A bench-scale test procedure was used, with the sample held vertically. The epoxy decomposition temperature was quickly exceeded, with rapid flash-over and progressive core softening and decomposition. There is a change in failure mode depending on whether the load is greater or less than 50% of the unexposed failure load, or in other words if one or two skins carry the load. At high loads, failure involved both skins with a single clear linear separation across each face. There is an inflection in the failure time relationship in the similar to 50% load region, corresponding to the time taken for heat to be transmitted to the rear face, along with a change in the rear skin failure mode from separation to the formation of a plastic hinge. The integrity of the carbon front face, even with the resin burnt out, and the low thermal diffusivity of the core, both play key roles in prolonging rear face integrity, something to be borne in mind for future panel design. Intumescent coatings prolong the period before failure occurs. The ratio of times to failure with and without protection is proposed as a measure of their effectiveness. Apart from insulation properties, their adhesion and stability under severe fire impact play a key role.