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Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652


The influence of fibre length and concentration on the properties

of glass fibre reinforced polypropylene:
5. Injection moulded long and short fibre PP
J.L. Thomason*
European Owens Corning Fiberglas, s.a., Route de Charneux, B-4651 Battice, Belgium
Received 27 May 2002; revised 20 September 2002; accepted 28 September 2002

We present results of a step by step comparison of the mechanical performance of injection moulded ‘long’ (LF-PP) and ‘short’ (SF-PP) glass
fibre-polypropylene compounds. The study allows direct comparison of the mechanical performance of long and short fibre systems in the same
resin at the same fibre diameter, and the effect of fibre diameter in short fibre compounds. Furthermore, the comparison of these three systems
has been made over the 0 – 40 wt% fibre content range. At the same fibre diameter and fibre content LF-PP gives significant improvements in
room temperature tensile and flexural strength, notched and unnotched impact resistance. The improvement in impact resistance is higher still at
lower test temperature. LF-PP also gives increasingly higher modulus over SF-PP as the strain is increased. The effect of lowering the fibre
diameter in SF-PP has been shown to increase both strength and unnotched impact, but not to the levels obtained with LF-PP at higher fibre
diameter. Notched impact and modulus of SF-PP were relatively unaffected by reduction of the fibre diameter. The relative mechanical data are
shown to conform well to available models. The results are discussed in terms of the relevant micro-mechanical parameters of these materials.
q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: A. Glass fibres; A. Thermoplastic resin; E. Injection moulding; Polypropylene

1. Introduction † PP combined with inorganic fillers for injection

In recent years there has been an increasing growth in the † PP reinforced with ‘short’ (SF-PP) fibres for injection
use of glass-fibre-polypropylene composite systems in moulding, delivering an average fibre length of , 1 mm
semi-structural and engineering applications. These thermo- in the moulded part.
plastic matrix composite systems combine ease of proces- † ‘Long’ fibre reinforced PP (LF-PP) moulding com-
sing with property advantages such as enhanced toughness pounds for injection and extrusion compression mould-
and an unlimited shelf life. Furthermore, their intrinsic ing, delivering an average fibre length in the 1 – 25 mm
recyclability is rapidly being recognised as a strong driving range in the moulded part.
force for their further application. Their potential for high- † Random, in-plane, fibre-reinforced PP known as Glass
volume processing combined with high levels of end use Mat Thermoplastic (GMT) for compression-flow mould-
property levels and associated lower manufacturing costs ing, with fibre lengths in the 10 – 50 mm range.
has spurred the current expansion of research and develop- † Continuous fibre-PP products based on pre-preg or
comingling technology for compression moulding.
ment activities on thermoplastic (and particularly poly-
propylene) matrix composites. There is currently a large and
growing range of polypropylene based composite systems Moving down this list generally means moving to
available. This range can be divided into a number of systems which can offer higher performance but usually
categories based on the reinforcement aspect ratio. involves more complex, time consuming part manufactur-
ing processes which may result in a higher system cost. In
* Tel.: þ32-87-69-24-59; fax: þ 32-87-67-51-10. the past few years the growth in structural composite usage
E-mail address: james.thomason@owenscorning.com (J.L. Thomason). has resulted in the need for higher output manufacturing
1359-835X/02/$ - see front matter q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 1 3 5 9 - 8 3 5 X ( 0 2 ) 0 0 1 7 9 - 3
1642 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

processes than have been used previously. This has provided production will typically fall in the fibre diameter range of
the impetus for the development of techniques to produce 16– 20 mm, whereas the standard fibre diameter for SF-PP is
LF-PP reinforced thermoplastic matrix composites which in the 14– 17 mm range. Furthermore, it is also very likely
possess both high performance and mass processibility. In that the processing demands of LF-PP and SF-PP compound
particular, the long (but discontinuous) fibre reinforced production will put different demands on the input PP and its
materials such as GMT and LF-PP injection moulding processing temperature. The LF-PP process typically
pellets prepared by wire coating, crosshead extrusion, or requires low resin viscosities (i.e. high melt flow index PP
thermoplastic pultrusion techniques, have recently received and/or high processing temperatures), whereas SF-PP will
much attention [1 – 8]. Parallel to this growth has been the typically be produced with lower melt flow index PP at more
increasing recognition of the need to understand better and moderate temperatures.
measure the micro-mechanical material parameters and Clearly this all leads to some uncertainty in the
processing parameters which control the performance of interpretation of such SF-PP to LF-PP comparisons. In an
such composite parts. High performance levels can only be attempt to reduce some of this uncertainty we have
obtained from a composite part with high fibre concen- produced a number of well-defined SF-PP and LF-PP
trations and where the reinforcing fibres in the final product compounds and compared their performance in a range
have a sufficiently high aspect ratio (length/diameter). of standard mechanical tests. In particular, we have
However, the demands of mass production are often in produced SF-PP with standard chopped 14 mm diameter
conflict with the retention of high aspect ratios and the use glass fibres and also with 19 mm diameter glass fibres
of high fibre concentrations [9 – 16]. Moreover, many coated with the same sizing, the performance of these
composite production processes result in test samples with composites is compared with LF-PP composites produced
a complex, unknown fibre orientation function which can with a continuous 19 mm diameter glass fibres. All
further complicate the data analysis and comparison with compounds were produced using the same PP matrix. All
model predictions [17 – 19]. Other variables such as the base test data have been generated on injection moulded
resin properties, the fibre strength, and the interfacial samples, moulded on the same machine, and tested under
strength are also of prime importance to the final balance identical conditions. Furthermore, since glass content is a
of properties exhibited by moulded thermoplastic compo- variable that dominates composite performance we have
sites. It is therefore essential to be able to fully understand made these comparisons across the normal range of glass
the structure-processing-performance relationships of the contents (0 – 40 wt%) for thermoplastic moulding com-
various forms of GF-PP. pounds. In this report, we present the results from this
When dealing with the complexity of composite study and discuss them in terms of the relevant micro-
materials, the route to achieving this goal is often laden mechanical parameters of these materials.
with pitfalls for the unwary, as there may often be many
changes in the material and processing parameters involved
in the comparison of the various GF-PP material systems. 2. Experimental
This is certainly the case when trying to understand the
position of LF-PP systems in comparison with GMT and Owens Corning Cratece 146B-19C and 146B-14C
traditional SF-PP moulding compounds. The effect of fibre chopped E-glass (average fibre diameter 19.4 and
length in the input material on the moulding process has 13.6 mm) and Huntsman P4C6Z-059 polypropylene
been reported by a number of authors. In most cases these (MFI ¼ 35 g/10 min) were used to produce moulded
reports are based on commercially available LF-PP and SF-PP composites (SF19 and SF14, respectively) with
SF-PP compounds. Due to the nature of the production nominal 10, 20, 30, 40 wt% glass contents. The level of
process for these different compounds there are normally fibre –matrix interaction in this system was increased by
many structural differences between such materials other the addition of 2 phr Polybond 3200 coupling agent. The
than just the initial fibre length. Most LF-PP compounds are glass bundles and pre-dried resin pellets were dry blended
made by some variation of the pultrusion process requiring a to the desired glass content and compounded on a single
continuous glass fibre input, whereas most SF-PP com- screw extruder (2.5 in., 3.75:1, 24:1 L/D screw). Set point
pounds are produced by extrusion compounding of chopped temperatures were 254 –277 8C (490 – 530 8F) for com-
glass fibre bundles either dry blended with PP pellets or pounding. LF-PP moulding compounds (LF19) in the
added to the PP melt in an extrusion operation. The 10– 50 wt% fibre content range were produced by a
production of these two different forms of glass fibre lays a coating technique similar to that discussed by Bader and
number of restrictions on the sizing formulation, the fibre Bowyer [21] using Owens Corning 174C-AD-3000
diameter distribution and the linear density of the fibre continuous glass fibres (average fibre diameter 19.0 mm)
strands [20]. Due to the processing requirements placed on and the same resin system described earlier. After cooling,
sizing formulations it is therefore most unlikely that the continuous strand was chopped into pellets of
identical sizings can be applied to these two different fibre 12.5 mm length. The compounds were moulded into test
products. Moreover, continuous glass fibres for LF-PP bars on a 200 ton Cincinnati Milacron moulding machine.
J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652 1643

Fig. 1. Residual fibre length versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).

Set point temperatures were 215 –238 8C (420 – 460 8F) for a crosshead rate of 2.5 mm/min (0.1 in./min) and a span
moulding, at a mould temperature of 65 8C (150 8F). The width of 50 mm (2 in.). Izod and modified Charpy impact
mould was designed to produce a number of standard test properties were measured on 10 specimens in accordance
specimens in one shot, all test bars and disks were single with the procedures in ASTM D-256 and ASTM D-4812.
end gated. Multiaxial instrumented impact testing was carried out in
Unless otherwise stated, all mechanical property testing accordance with DIN53433 on a Zwick-Rel machine. The
was performed at 23 8C and at a relative humidity of 50%. injection moulded sample disks were 50 mm diameter and
Tensile properties were measured in accordance with the 3 mm thick with a support diameter of 40 mm. The
procedures in ASTM D-638, using five ASTM Type I impacting tip was 10 mm diameter with a tip radius of
specimens at a crosshead rate of 5 mm/min (0.2 in./min) 20 mm, impacting at a constant speed of 1 m/s. Fibre length
and an extensometer gauge length of 50 mm (2 in.). and diameters were determined by image analysis and
Flexural properties were measured on five specimens optical microscopy on fibre samples removed from the
in accordance with the procedures in ASTM D-790, at moulded bars after high temperature ashing.

Fig. 2. Tensile Young’s modulus versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14, bars show 95% confidence limits).
1644 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

Fig. 3. Tensile strength versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).

3. Results process as opposed to the commonly used pre-impregnation

pultrusion process. This means that the fibres are delivered
Fig. 1 shows the results for the weight average residual to the barrel of the injection moulding machine in bundles.
fibre lengths in the mouldings. It is clear that LF-PP Fibres at the centre of these bundles may receive
compounds deliver significantly longer fibres to the considerable ‘protection’ from the fibre length reduction
moulded composite in comparison to the extruded com- processes during the plasticisation process of injection
pounds. In both of the SF-PP systems the average fibre moulding. Fig. 2 shows the results for composite tensile
length appears to decrease with increasing fibre content, as modulus. It can be seen that an approximately linear
has been noted previously [22,23]. However, the least relationship with fibre weight fraction is obtained over the
squares regression analysis shown in Fig. 1 appears to whole range (the relationship is actually linear with volume
indicate that the long fibre compounds may be less sensitive fraction). There are only minor differences observed
to this trend. One possible factor that may be important here between the three materials. Tensile modulus is influenced
is the arrangement of the fibres in the LF-PP compound. The mainly by the fibre and resin modulus, the fibre content and
LP-PP compound was prepared by a ‘wire-coating’ type orientation and only to a much lesser degree by the fibre

Fig. 4. Flexural strength versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).

J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652 1645

Fig. 5. Tensile elongation versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).

length [4,9 – 14]. Although it might be expected that the clearly give higher tensile performance in the same PP resin.
longer fibres would give better performance, it is also A lower fibre diameter gives higher performance in short
known that long fibres give slightly lower orientation in the fibre compounds (this will also be true for long fibre). All
moulding (and testing) direction [19,24], these two effects these differences increase with increasing fibre content. The
appear to cancel each other out. A virtually identical trend maximum reinforcement effect is obtained at the
was observed in the values of flexural modulus. 40 – 50 wt% level in both long and short fibre composites.
The data in Fig. 3 show that tensile strength does not Fig. 4 shows that the trends for flexural strength are similar
follow the same linear increase as modulus. Instead there is although the absolute levels of flexural strength are higher
a continual decrease in reinforcement efficiency as the fibre than those seen with tensile strength. The results for tensile
content increases. Any incremental increase in fibre content elongation are shown in Fig. 5. The addition of even a
appears to bring a lower improvement in properties than the small fraction of reinforcement dramatically lowers the
previous one. This has been noted and discussed in previous tensile elongation of the system from a PP resin value of
reports [22,23]. The following trends can be observed in the 9.6%. After this initial steep drop tensile elongation
tensile strength results in Fig. 3. The long fibre compounds further decreases almost linearly with fibre content in

Fig. 6. Notched Izod impact versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).
1646 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

Fig. 7. Notched Charpy impact versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).

the 10 –50 wt% range. It further appears that fibre length has concentrations of fibres. As the fibre content is increased
little significant effect on this property. the unnotched impact resistance increases. However, even
The trends observed in notched impact were practically at high fibre concentrations, the resin value is only exceeded
identical for Izod and Charpy tests, as shown in Figs. 6 and 7. by the LF-PP compounds. The LF-PP materials give
The main observation here is that the use of LF-PP approximately 50% higher unnotched Izod values than the
compounds more than doubles the notched impact perform- SF-PP compounds with equivalent fibre diameter. However,
ance of these composites at any given fibre content. it is well known that unnotched impact is highly sensitive to
Furthermore notched impact is highly dependent on fibre fibre diameter [24 –26] and the long fibre advantage is much
content and also appears to be approaching a maximum at less when compared with a ‘standard’ 14 mm fibre diameter
the 40 –50 wt% reinforcement level. There was no signifi- SF-PP compound. Similar trends are also seen in the room
cant effect observed from the different fibre diameters in the temperature instrumented impact data shown in Fig. 9. The
SF-PP composites. The data for unnotched Izod impact are data for instrumented impact at 2 40 8C are also shown in
shown in Fig. 8. In all cases the unnotched impact resistance Fig. 9. It can be seen that PP is very brittle at this
of PP is initially lowered by the addition of low temperature being below the polymer glass transition

Fig. 8. Unnotched Izod impact versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).
J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652 1647

Fig. 9. Instrumented impact versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14, filled symbols ¼ 23 8C, open symbols ¼ 240 8C).

temperature. The impact resistance of the SF-PP compounds quantities, which unfortunately, are not independent vari-
is also lowered at 2 40 8C, however, the LF-PP compounds ables. It has been shown in many studies that injection
show no loss of impact resistance at this temperature. moulded composites have a complex layered structure with
very different average fibre orientation in the different layers
[18,19]. Furthermore, the thickness of these layers and the
fibre orientation within the layers has been shown to vary
4. Discussion
with fibre length. In general, longer residual fibre length in
the moulded composite leads to a more random average
The main factors affecting the Young’s modulus of orientation and a lower ‘orientation factor’ in the equations
injection moulded test bars are the fibre content, stiffness, commonly used to calculate composite stiffness. As an
and orientation, and the matrix stiffness [4,9 –14]. To a example of the commonly used ‘rule of mixtures’ equation
lesser extent the aspect ratio, in the normal range found in for composite stiffness is
these samples, also plays a role. The fibre orientation and
aspect ratio in injection moulded composites are complex E c ¼ ho hl Ef V f þ V m Em ð1Þ

Fig. 10. Fibre modulus factor (Eq. (2)) versus fibre content.
1648 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

Table 1 the short fibre samples show the greatest degree of

Orientation factors from Eq. (2) and Fig. 10 orientation. This is in agreement with the view that the
Slope in Fig. 10 Orientation factor orientation of the ‘core’ layer in long fibre moulding is more
random than that of short fibre mouldings, resulting in an
SF-PP 49.68 0.69 overall lower orientation factor.
LF-PP 45.91 0.64 Young’s modulus, which is estimated at zero strain, is a
GMT 27.61 0.38 very useful parameter in probing the microstructure of these
composites as demonstrated earlier. However, for practical
where Ef, Em, Vf, Vm are the fibre and matrix stiffness and applications of these materials, the stiffness at higher levels
the fibre volume fraction, respectively, and ho and hl are of strain is an important consideration. Fig. 11 shows data
efficiency factors related to fibre orientation and length as for the measured composite stress at 1 and 2% strain. It is
introduced by Cox and Krenchel [4,27,28]. The modulus clear from this figure that there is an increasing difference in
data in Fig. 2 can be modelled using a simple rearrangement relative modulus for these three systems as the applied strain
of this equation to give is increased. Despite the similar levels of Young’s modulus
Ec 2 V m Em displayed in Fig. 2, there is a clear difference in the
¼ ho Ef Vf ð2Þ composite stress levels (and consequently the secant
modulus) at higher strains. With increasing strain levels
Fig. 10 shows the tensile modulus data replotted following the LF-PP clearly shows higher stress levels than the SF-PP
Eq. (2). For comparison we have also added previously systems. Comparing the two SF-PP systems we also see that
reported tensile modulus data obtained from GMT samples lower fibre diameter is advantageous to secant modulus at
[4]. In this figure we can see clear significant differences elevated strain levels.
between the three forms of GF-PP, although we note no In a recent series of papers, Thomason and Vlug,
significant effect of fibre diameter in the two SF-PP reviewed the effect of fibre length on the stiffness, strength
materials. Using the linear regression parameters shown in and notched impact properties of random inplane glass
Fig. 10, we can calculate values for an orientation parameter reinforced PP laminates [6]. They showed good correlation
if we know the value of Ef and hl. The results are shown in between experimental data and theoretical equations for
Table 1 where we have used a value of Ef ¼ 72 GPa and predicting laminate properties. Using their equation we have
values for hl calculated using the reported weight average generated the data in Fig. 12 which shows the influence of
fibre lengths and the Cox shear lag method [4,27]. The final fibre length on the relative properties of a 30 wt% glass PP
values for the orientation factors in these systems follow laminate (interfacial shear strength (IFSS) ¼ 8 MPa, fibre
some of the generally accepted trends. Since the fibre strength ¼ 2 GPa). It can be seen that the modulus, strength
orientation in GMT is expected to be virtually random-in- and notched impact of GF-PP all follow a similar trend.
plane we obtain a value very close to the theoretical value of Property levels are low at short fibre length; as fibre length is
0.375. In the case of the injection moulded composites, both increased the properties go through a region of rapid
are significantly more oriented in the testing direction and increase and then reach a plateau level for long fibres.

Fig. 11. Tensile stress at 1 and 2% strain versus fibre content (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14, filled symbols ¼ 2%, open symbols ¼ 1%).
J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652 1649

Fig. 12. Modelling of mechanical performance.

However, the length range in which the properties go for the SF-PP composite. These differences are mainly due
through a steep increase is different for the various to the different sizing compositions used in the production
properties. Thus, the composite stiffness reaches 90% of of the chopped and continuous glass fibre products used in
the maximum attainable with a fibre length of only 1.0 mm. these composites. Using these values of IFSS to generate
To attain 90% of the maximum composite strength we need theoretical values of the various composite mechanical
fibre of 7 mm or longer and to reach the 90% level of properties we obtain predictions for property improvements
notched impact we require 16 mm or longer. These length as shown in Table 2. Given all of the potential sources for
numbers are often referred to as ‘critical’ fibre lengths. error in this comparison, the agreement between theory and
However, there remains much confusion about the term experiment is excellent. This indicates that the theoretical
‘critical fibre length’ and much of that confusion is caused analysis referenced above which was based on GMT data is
by the fact, which is made clear here, that the ‘critical’ also applicable to injection moulded GF-PP.
length is dependent upon which composite property is being The impact resistance of composite materials is a
considered. complex subject where the data often reflects the
Although the data in Fig. 12 are based on GMT parameters of the test as much as the structure-performance
composites, these predictions may also be applied to other relationships of the materials under test. A major
forms of GF-PP since the effect of fibre orientation is, in discriminating factor is whether or not the sample under
principle, removed by the normalisation procedure. To test has been notched. This fact is reflected in the different
illustrate this point we have highlighted the length range of trends that we observe in Figs. 6 –9 between notched and
the LF-PP and SF-PP injection moulded composites in this unnotched impact results. From a structure-performance
study in Fig. 12. From these data we would expect order of viewpoint composite impact strength is influenced by all of
magnitude increase of 7% in modulus, 55% in strength, and the same parameters as tensile strength, although to
75% in notched impact going from ‘short’ to ‘long’ differing degrees. Notched impact data generally reflects
mouldings. Despite the fact that this plot is based on the energy required propagating an existing crack through
GMT data, it is clear that the order of magnitude for the
predicted increase in properties obtained by increasing fibre Table 2
length from 1.2 to 4.2 mm is of the same order of magnitude Comparison of theoretical and experimental effect of fibre length on
that we observe in our experimental results. One of the composite performance
important parameters in determining these theoretical
Improvement Modulus Strength Notched impact
curves is the value used for the IFSS. In another recent 1.2 –4.2 mm (%) (%) (%)
series of papers it has been shown how such values can be
obtained from a combination of the composite tensile Theory þ9 þ36 þ137
stress – strain curve and the residual fibre length distribution Expt Tensile þ3 þ51
[22,23]. We have carried out this analysis on the samples in Expt Flex þ6 þ33
Notched Izod þ122
this study and obtained values for IFSS at a 30 wt% fibre
Notched Charpy þ103
content of 7.7 MPa for the LF-PP composite and 16.2 MPa
1650 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

the sample, whereas unnotched impact data will depend on where Um is the notched impact strength of the matrix
both propagation and initiation energies. The effect of and Ufx is the contribution to the composite impact
fibres on the propagation of a crack through a thermo- strength made by all of the different mechanisms caused
plastic matrix is to increase the volume in which energy by the presence of the fibres. We can use this equation to
dissipation can take place. The presence of fibres also calculate the fibre contribution VfUfx to the notched
increases the number of potential energy absorbing impact data in Figs. 6 and 7. Interestingly enough, when
mechanisms in the system. It has been proposed that we calculate this fibre contribution for either notched
various energy dissipating mechanisms may operate when Charpy or notched Izod from the data in Figs. 6 and 7
a discontinuous fibre reinforced composite, fractures from we get virtually identical data sets. When the data for
an existing notch [6]. Deformation and fracture of the fibre volume fraction is then normalised by the fibre
matrix takes place in an area in front of the crack tip. At aspect ratio we obtain a relationship as shown in Fig. 13.
the same time the applied load, transferred by shear to the A strong correlation is apparent in this figure. Although
fibres, may exceed the strength of the fibre – matrix this relationship is not linear, it does still bear a strong
interface and debonding may occur. Transfer of stress resemblance to the general shape of the curves in Figs. 6
may still be possible to a debonded fibre via frictional and 7. It is possible to fit either a single quadratic
forces along the interface. Fibres may fracture if the fibre equation to the data in Fig. 13 or two different straight
stress level exceeds the local fibre strength. Fibres that lines in high and low regions of the fibre content. This
have fractured away from the crack interface will be pulled indicates that the composite notched impact energy is
out of the matrix, which may also involve energy indeed closely related to fibre volume fraction and aspect
dissipation. There is still some debate over which, if any, ratio. However, the lack of a single straight-line
of these mechanisms predominates in the process. correlation would appear to indicate that there are other
However, it is clear that fibre volume fraction and length factors, such as adhesion or fibre strength, to be taken
(or aspect ratio) are important factors in all these into account in this relationship. Another important issue
mechanisms since the volume of the energy absorbing to be considered is the relationship between fibre volume
zone will be closely related to the number of fibres which fraction, fibre aspect ratio and fibre packing. In general it
the crack must traverse and the volume around the crack can be understood that to pack more and more fibres into
(tip) into which the fibres can distribute the deformation. a fixed volume both the level of fibre orientation must be
Furthermore, it is clear from Figs. 6 and 7 that the notched increased and/or the fibre aspect ratio will be decreased.
impact strength of injection moulded GF-PP is increased A number of authors [29 – 31] have indicated that the
by increasing both the volume fraction and length of the maximum volume fraction obtainable with fully 3D
reinforcing fibres. It has recently been shown [6] that the random orientation is related to the fibre aspect ratio by
notched impact strength of GMT can also be modelled by a the equation
‘rule of mixtures’ equation.
Uc ¼ Vf Ufx þ ð1 2 Vf ÞUm ð3Þ Vf ¼C ð4Þ

Fig. 13. Fibre contribution to notched impact versus fibre content and aspect ratio (V LF19, B SF19, O SF14).
J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652 1651

Fig. 14. Instrumented impact and unnotched Izod versus tensile strength.

where the value of the constant C is somewhere in the strength and the composite performance in this type of test
range 4 –7. Eq. (4) can also be used [29 – 31] to give the is dominated by fibre and interface effects. This is clearly
approximate maximum volume fraction for a random in- shown in Fig. 9 where we observe the impact strength of PP
plane case where C is in the range 15 –30. Examining is lowered by an order of magnitude when the test
Fig. 13 we can see that this is exactly the range in which temperature is lowered below the polymers glass transition
we appear to get deviation from linearity. It has been temperature. In contrast, the composite performance is
proposed that in the case of GMT (which can be closely relatively unaffected by the reduction in temperature and is
approximated to have a random in-plane orientation) much more dependent on fibre length and concentration.
exceeding this value will lead to fibre fracture during Indeed, it has been shown that the impact strength of GF-PP
processing. It is not clear at this time whether exceeding will increase with lowering temperature, if the fibres are
this, is also the case in injection moulding, where there long enough (greater than the critical fibre length). Fig. 14
may be some degree of freedom in increasing the level shows unnotched Izod impact data and instrumented impact
of fibre orientation which consequently increases the data (at room temperature) plotted against the composite
value of C. Extension of the data set to higher volume tensile strength. A clear dependence is apparent in Fig. 14.
fractions may help to clarify this point. For this reason, we can expect the same fibre and interface
The unnotched impact strength of many thermoplastic micro-mechanical parameters which influence composite
resins is more than an order of magnitude greater than their strength to be important in determining the level of
notched impact strength. In general, this ratio is significantly unnotched impact.
reduced by the addition of fillers or fibres. Such reinforce-
ments can severely reduce the energy required to initiate a
critical flaw in the system while concurrently the presence
of fibres can significantly increase the resistance to crack 5. Conclusions
propagation (as discussed earlier). It has been shown that
fibre – matrix debonding at the fibre tips can occur well In a comparison of the mechanical performance of LF-PP
before the failure of a composite under load [32,33]. These against SF-PP, at the same fibre diameter, over a range of
debonded regions can act singly, or at higher strain levels fibre contents, we have found that LF-PP gives significant
through multiple interactions, as critical flaws. However, improvements in room temperature tensile and flexural
increasing addition of fibres can also lead to an increase in strength, notched and unnotched impact resistance. The
unnotched impact by increasing the stiffness and therefore, improvement in impact resistance is even higher at lower
the energy required to achieve the strain levels for such test temperature. Although LF-PP and SF-PP exhibit no
debonding to occur. This notching effect of fibres already significant difference in Young’s modulus the LF-PP shows
reaches its maximum influence at very low fibre contents, as increasingly higher modulus over SF-PP as the strain is
is clear in Fig. 8. Consequently, in the normal range of fibre increased. The effect of lowering the fibre diameter in SF-PP
contents found in these composites, the resin properties has been shown to increase both strength and unnotched
have only a limited influence on the unnotched impact impact, but not to the levels obtained with LF-PP at higher
1652 J.L. Thomason / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 1641–1652

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obtained from a study on PP based GMT. These differences moulding on the mechanical behaviour of long-fibre reinforced PBT/
in performance could be explained by the differences in PET blends. Compos Sci Technol 1991;40:423–35.
micro-mechanical parameters such as the fibre aspect ratio [16] Bailey RS, Davies M, Moore DR. Processing property characteristics
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