Fire Technology

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 913–939 | Cite as

Mechanical Property Degradation of Naval Composite Materials

  • A. P. Mouritz
  • S. Feih
  • Z. Mathys
  • A. G. Gibson


The effect of heat and fire on the mechanical properties and failure of polymer composite materials used in naval ship structures is investigated. Coupled thermal-mechanical models are presented for predicting the loss in strength and failure of load-bearing polymer laminates when heated from one-side. The thermal component of the models predicts the temperature and decomposition rate of a laminate. Using this information, several mechanical models based on progressive softening analysis or laminate analysis can be used to predict the reduction in strength and time-to-failure. A coupled thermal-mechanical model that is solved using finite element analysis is also presented. Experimental fire-under-load tests are performed on several types of polymer laminate materials to evaluate the accuracy of the models. The tests were performed at different heat flux levels between 10 kW/m2 and 75 kW/m2, which is equivalent to surface temperatures between about 250°C and 700°C. The temperature, mass loss and char formation of a laminate can be accurately predicted for a wide range of thermal conditions using the models. The models can also predict the time-to-failure of laminates under static tension or compression loading. The models presented in this chapter are considered useful analytical tools for naval architects to estimate the loss in mechanical performance and time-to-failure of composite ship materials in fire.


Polymer composites Mechanical modelling Thermal modelling Decomposition 



This research was performed as part of a research project (P2.1.1) within the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS). The study was supported by the United States Office of Naval Research (Grant No. N00014-04-10026) under the direction of Dr L. Couchman. One of us, AGG, would also like to acknowledge the support of the UK EPSRC. The authors thank Luke Bond (CRC-ACS) for conducting the elevated temperature tests and Peter Tkatchyk (RMIT) for constructing the radiant heat flux test apparatus and for assistance when conducting the tests. The technical assistance of Sarina Russo (DSTO) in measuring the temperature–time response of the laminates is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. P. Mouritz
    • 1
  • S. Feih
    • 1
  • Z. Mathys
    • 2
  • A. G. Gibson
    • 3
  1. 1.RMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Defence Science & Technology OrganisationMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.University of Newcastle-Upon-TyneNewcastleUK

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