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Title: Modelling fire behaviour of composite materials
Author: Di Modica, Pietro
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 4055
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2016
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Despite the outstanding mechanical properties of composites, their structural application has been hindered by their poor structural performance in fire. A gap analysis identified the need to (i) develop a small-scale fire resistance test to be used before full-scale standardised fire tests, (ii) develop a novel method to measure thermal diffusivity, and (iii) develop and validate the thermal-mechanical model of aerospace grade unidirectional carbon fibre epoxy composites exposed to high heat fluxes. In this sense, the “small-scale propane burner fire test” was developed, with repeatable calibration method, to allow for a material development framework at low-cost. Furthermore, the “step-change method” was developed for simple and cost-effective thermal diffusivity measurements. The thermal and mechanical properties of carbon fibre epoxy composites at high temperature have been measured, with both traditional and developed techniques, to be implemented in COMFIRE-50, a 1D finite difference thermo-mechanical modelling software which takes into account heat transfer through conduction, gas mass flow and endothermic decomposition processes. The mechanical models implemented in COMFIRE-50 are the post-fire model and the strength based model, used to predict, respectively, compressive post-fire and survivability times during fire. Thermal model optimisation and validation with long-fire-exposure experiments to high heat flux has been performed with good results. On the other hand, setup issues and limited number of replicates limited the validation of the mechanical fire model, in spite of showing encouraging results under the tested conditions, i.e. no anti-buckling guides, high heat fluxes (between 70 and 180 kW m-2), low loading conditions compared to RT failure load, one sided heat flux and short survival times. Further to this validation for carbon fibre epoxy composites at high temperature, a graphic user interface has been developed for COMFIRE-50 (COMFIRE-50-GUI), allowing for user-friendly thermal and mechanical calculation through library and totally custom chosen parameters, supporting the wider use of this free software. Future work should focus on extending the temperature range of the thermal-mechanical property measurements, both in terms of the step-change method and mechanical testing methods.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Fire Resist Project (FP7 European funded)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available