The Tensile Behaviour of Unaged and Hygrothermally Aged Asymmetric Helicoidally Stacked CFRP Composites

Chidume Nwambu, Colin Robert, Parvez Alam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper concerns the effects of hygrothermal ageing on the tensile behaviour of assymetric helicoidally stacked carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) composites. MR70 12P carbon fibre epoxy prepreg sheets were manufactured into laminated composites comprising constant inter-ply pitch angles ranging from 0∘ to 30∘. The composites were tested in tension (according to BS ISO 527-5:2009) as either dry unaged specimens or following hygrothermal ageing in seawater at the constant temperatures of 40 ∘C and 60 ∘C for 2000 h. Both tensile modulus and tensile strength are found to be detrimentally affected by hygrothermal ageing, and the extent to which ageing affects these properties is a function of the inter-ply pitch angle. Higher hygrothermal ageing temperatures are found to decrease the tensile modulus and strength ratios of asymmetric helicoidally stacked composites when compared against UD composites subjected to the same conditions and the strength and stiffness ratios of all composites when compared against unaged equivalents. Significantly, therefore, we show that the degradation of helicoidal composite properties under hygrothermal conditions, in general, occurs more rapidly than it does in UD composites, and thus the long-term use of helicoidal composites in immersed environments should take into account these differences. A second order relationship is observed for the mechanical properties of the composites when plotted against their inter-ply helicoidal pitch angles. As such, a mixtures model was modified to incorporate the observed effects of laminate inter-ply pitch angle and used to predict the tensile modulus of unaged composites. The predictions are within one standard deviation of the experimental arithmetic mean; however, the model can only be used for dry helicoidal composites, as ageing alters the microstructures in an irregular manner between the different sample sets. The development of this mixture model is useful as it provides a justifiably simple route to predicting the properties of dry helicoidal structures, albeit within the bounds of specific interply-pitch angles. Finite element analyses (Hashin failure) elucidate the plies that are most likely responsible for composite failure. The validity of these numerical predictions is evidenced by observing primary fracture paths in the composites. Finally, hygrothermal ageing is found to enable greater in-plane (mode III) twisting of individual laminates under loading, with certain laminate angles being more prone to twisting than others.
Original languageEnglish
Article number137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Composites Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2022


  • asymmetric composites
  • helicoidal
  • Bouligand structure
  • CFRP
  • bioinspired composites


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