Hybrid finite elements nanocomposite characterization by stochastic microstructuring
Spanos, Pol D.
Doctor of Philosophy
In this thesis the impact of entangled and non-straight fibers in the determination of the effective elastic and thermal properties of polymer nanocomposite (PNC) is addressed. Most of the models in recent studies assume nanotubes to be well dispersed straight fibers with fixed size. Nonetheless experiments reveal that nanotube formation become wavy during the manufacturing process, due to their high aspect ratio and low bending stiffness. Furthermore, experiments also show that nanotubes come in a variety of diameters and lengths. In the thesis an attempt to model the behavior of entangled fibers is made in which the distributions regarding the nanotube length and diameter are incorporated. First, an approach to generate random microstructures is developed. Then, using the finite element (FE) method with embedded fibers, the effective properties are computed for each of the random microstructures. This approach requires only a regular grid for the FE mesh, circumventing the requisite computationally costly and human labor intensive mesh refinement of ordinary FE in order to capture the local morphology of the composite material. Finally, a Monte Carlo simulation approach is used to obtain statistics of the computed effective physical properties. The numerical results are found in good agreement with experimental data reported in the open literature.