Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Polymer Engineering

Major Professor

John F. Fellers

Committee Members

Gajanan S. Bhat, Madhu S. Madhukar, Roberto S. Benson


In passenger vehicles, the ability to absorb impact energy and be survivable for the occupant is called the “crashworthiness” of the structure. The ACC (Automotive Composite Consortium) has been and continues to be very interested in investigating the use of fiber-reinforced composites as crash energy absorbers. It would have been ideal if the composite structure to be used as a crash energy absorber were manufactured as an integral, monolithic component, but limitations in the present day manufacturing technology necessitate the presence of joints in composite structures.

While many scientists have investigated the energy absorption characteristics in various fiber reinforced composite materials, there is no literature available on the energy absorption and crushing characteristics of these materials when they are used in a bonded structure. The influence of having a bonded joint within the crush zone of a composite structure has not been adequately characterized in the past. After reviewing the existing literature and based on our own work done in automotive crashworthiness studies it can be concluded that investigating the strain rate dependence of fiber reinforced polymer composites and bonded structures made from them are also very important since the amount of energy they absorb and their performance properties vary with loading rate. The above is the last stage in crashworthiness research, where in one would like to determine how best fiber composite structures can be bonded together in the pursuit of designing the most crashworthy adhesively bonded automotive composite structure.

Hence, a comprehensive experimental methodology to analyze and design adhesively bonded automotive composite structures made of carbon fiber polymer composites to sustain axial, off-axis and lateral crash/impact loads is developed and strain rate effects on the crashworthiness of these bonded carbon fiber composite structures are studied. The experimental results from this work are being used to provide the building blocks for model developments – first the coupon level, then progressing in complexity to component level. Correlation with experimental results will provide the basis for which the analytical developments including development of constitutive laws, materials models, damage algorithms and new finite elements, are made.

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