A low concentrated polystyrene (PS) additive to epoxy is used since it is able to reduce the curing reaction rate but not at the cost of increasing viscosity and decreasing glass transition temperature of the curing epoxy. The modified epoxy is co-cured with a compatible thermoplastic interleaf during the vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) to toughen the interlaminar of the composites. Using viscometry, the solubilities of thermoplastics polycarbonate (PC), polyetherimide (PEI), and polysulfone (PSU) are determined to predict their compatibility with epoxy. The diffusion and precipitation process between the most compatible polymer PSU and epoxy formed semiinterpenetration networks (semi-IPN). To optimize bonding adhesion, these diffusion and precipitation regions were studied via optical microscopy under curing temperatures from 25 C to 120 C and PS additive concentrations to epoxy of 0% to 5%. Uniaxial tensile tests were performed to quantify the effects of diffusion and precipitation regions on composite delamination resistance and toughness. Crack paths were observed to characterize crack propagation and arrest mechanism. Fracture surfaces were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to characterize the toughening mechanism of the thermoplastic interleaf reinforcements. The chemically etched interface between diffusion and precipitation region showed semi-IPN morphology at different curing temperatures. Results revealed deeper diffusion and precipitation regions increases energy required to break semi-IPN for crack propagation resulting in crack arrests and improved toughness.

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