Application of nano-indentation, nano-scratch and single fibre tests in investigation of interphases in composite materials

A. Hodzic, S. Kalyanasundaram, J. K. Kim, A. E. Lowe, Z. H. Stachurski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Three novel experimental techniques were employed in this work in order to investigate the influence of the interphase region in polymer-glass composites on the bulk material properties: (i) the microdroplet test is a single fibre test designed to characterize the fibre-matrix bond (interface region) and to determine the interfacial shear stress in composite material; (ii) the nano-indentation test, a novel nano-hardness technique with ability to produce an indent as low as a few nanometres was employed in order to measure nano-hardness of the fibre-matrix interphase region; and (iii) the nano-scratch test, used in conjunction with the nano-indentation test for measurement of the interphase region width. The microdroplet test (MDT) has been used to characterize the interfacial bond in fibrous composite materials. The specimen consists of a fibre with a drop of cured resin pulled while the drop is being supported by a platinum disc with a hole. A properly tested specimen fails at the droplet's tip-fibre interface, revealing the ultimate interfacial shear strength. In this study, finite element analysis (FEA) of the MDT has been focused toward simulation of the fibre-matrix interphase region. The influence of several functional variations of the material properties across the interphase layer on the stress distribution at the droplet's tip was analysed. The results showed that the variation of the interphase properties significantly affects the stress distribution at the fibre-droplet interface, and, therefore, the stress redistribution to composite material. These results led to further experimental investigation of the interphase region, in order to obtain the material properties essential for the interfacial stress analysis. The interphase region in dry and water aged polymer-glass composite materials was investigated by means of the nano-indentation and the nano-scratch techniques. The nano-indentation test involved indentation as small as 30 nm in depth, produced along a 14 μm path between the fibre and the matrix. The distinct properties of the interphase region were revealed by 2-3 indents in dry materials and up to 15 indents in water aged, degraded materials. These results indicated interdiffusion in water aged interphase regions. The nano-scratch test involves moving a sample while being in contact with a diamond tip. The nano-scratch test, used in conjunction with the nano-indentation test, accurately measured the width of the interphase region. The results showed that the harder interphase region dissolved into the softer interphase region (both regions being harder/stronger than the matrix) expanding its width after aging in water.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)765-775
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001


  • Composites
  • Interface
  • Interfacial shear stress
  • Interphase
  • Micro-hardness


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