Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Norman Munroe

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Benjamin Boesl

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Dwayne McDaniel

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Jose R. Almirall

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. Xiangyang Zhou

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Composite Materials, Adhesive Bonding, Contamination, Mechanical Strength Characterization, Durability, Micro-Macro Scale testing, Surface Analysis, Moisture Uptake, Quantification, Prediction.

Date of Defense



Advanced composite materials have enabled the conventional aircraft structures to reduce weight, improve fuel efficiency and offer superior mechanical properties. In the past, materials such as aluminum, steel or titanium have been used to manufacture aircraft structures for support of heavy loads. Within the last decade or so, demand for advanced composite materials have been emerging that offer significant advantages over the traditional metallic materials. Of particular interest in the recent years, there has been an upsurge in scientific significance in the usage of adhesively bonded composite joints (ABCJ’s). ABCJ’s negate the introduction of stress risers that are associated with riveting or other classical techniques. In today’s aircraft transportation market, there is a push to increase structural efficiency by promoting adhesive bonding to primary joining of aircraft structures. This research is focused on the issues associated with the durability and related failures in bonded composite joints that continue to be a critical hindrance to the universal acceptance of ABCJ’s. Of particular interest are the short term strength, contamination and long term durability of ABCJ’s.

One of the factors that influence bond performance is contamination and in this study the influence of contamination on composite-adhesive bond quality was investigated through the development of a repeatable and scalable surface contamination procedure. Results showed an increase in the contaminant coverage area decreases the overall bond strength significantly. A direct correlation between the contaminant coverage area and the fracture toughness of the bonded joint was established. Another factor that influences bond performance during an aircraft’s service life is its long term strength upon exposure to harsh environmental conditions or when subjected to severe mechanical loading. A test procedure was successfully developed in order to evaluate durability of ABCJ’s comprising severe environmental conditioning, fatiguing in ambient air and a combination of both. The bonds produced were durable enough to sustain the tests cases mentioned above when conditioned for 8 weeks and did not experience any loss in strength. Specimens that were aged for 80 weeks showed a degradation of 10% in their fracture toughness when compared to their baseline datasets. The effect of various exposure times needs to be further evaluated to establish the relationship of durability that is associated with the fracture toughness of ABCJ’s.





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