Abstract

Composites comprising a high-volume fraction of stiff reinforcements within a compliant matrix are commonly found in natural materials. The disparate properties of the constituent materials endow resilience to the composite, and here we report an investigation into some of the mechanisms at play. We report experiments and simulations of a prototype laminated composite system comprising silicon layers separated by polymer interlayers, where the only failure mechanism is the tensile fracture of the brittle silicon. Two failure modes are observed for such composites loaded in three-point bending: failure under the central roller in (i) the top ply (in contact with the roller) or (ii) the bottom ply (free surface). The former mode is benign with the beam retaining load carrying capacity, whereas the latter leads to catastrophic beam failure. Finite element (FE) simulations confirm this transition in failure mode and inform the development of a reduced order model. Good agreement is shown between measurements, FE simulations, and reduced order predictions, capturing the effects of material and geometric properties on the flexural rigidity, first ply failure mode, and failure load. A failure mechanism map for this system is reported that can be used to inform the design of such laminated composites.

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