Freeze-thaw Durability of Composite Materials

Report No: 96-R25

Published in 1996

About the report:

Composite materials, produced from polymer resins and high strength fibers, have the potential to be widely used in construction because of their corrosion resistance and high strength-to-weight ratio, However, such environmental factors as extreme temperature fluctuation and water absorption adversely affect the material properties of composite materials produced from polymers. Cycles of freezing and thawing temperatures magnify the effects of water absorption. For use in highway structures, composite materials must be as durable as steel and concrete. Therefore, the behavior of composite materials subjected to cycles of freezing and thawing needs to be characterized. Two commercially available composite systems, both reinforced with fiberglass and produced by the pultrusion process, were studied. One system was produced with isophthalic polyester, the other with vinyl ester. Coupons were cut from plate stock and placed in a solution of water and 2% sodium chloride and subjected to cycles of freezing and thawing. Periodically, coupons were removed and tested in flexure to failure. Flexural strength values at various numbers of freeze-thaw cycles were compared to the strengths of virgin coupons. Prior to destructive testing, coupons were tested to determine the dynamic modulus of elasticity. Dynamic modulus values at various numbers of freeze-thaw cycles were compared to virgin values. Results indicate a significant loss of flexural strength (20% 30%), rigidity, and toughness after 300 cycles. Data from dynamic modulus measurements when compared to modulus of elasticity calculations taken from load-deflection data, may not be an appropriate measure of durability for composites.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Brian Casto, Jose P. Gomez, Ph.D., P.E.

Last updated: December 17, 2023

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