Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Zhupanska, Olesya I.

First Committee Member

Lu, Jia

Second Committee Member

Ratner, Albert


The use of composite materials in aerospace, electronics, and wind industries has become increasingly common, and these composite components are required to carry mechanical, electrical, and thermal loads simultaneously. A unique property of carbon fiber composites is that when an electric current is applied to the specimen, the mechanical strength of the specimen increases. Previous studies have shown that the higher the electric current, the greater the increase in impact strength. However, as current passes through the composite, heat is generated through Joule heating. This Joule heating can cause degradation of the composite and thus a loss in strength. In order to minimize the negative effects of heating, it is desired to apply a very high current for a very short duration of time. This thesis investigated the material responses of carbon fiber composite plates subjected to electrical current pulse loads of up to 1700 Amps. For 32 ply unidirectional IM7/977-3 specimens, the peak impact load and absorbed energy increased slightly with the addition of a current pulse at the time of an impact event. In 16 ply cross-ply IM7/977-2 specimens, the addition of the current pulse caused detrimental effects due to electrical arcing at the interface between the composite and electrodes. Further refinement of the experimental setup should minimize the risk of electrical arcing and should better elucidate the effects of a current pulse on the impact strength of the specimens.


Composite, Current, Electrified, Impact, Laminate, Pulse


ix, 119 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 116-119).


Copyright 2011 Robert James Hart