Failure analysis and the optimal toughness design of carbon nanotube-reinforced composites

Y. L. Chen, B. Liu*, X. Q. He, Y. Huang, K. C. Hwang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


The combined analysis of the fracture toughness enhancement of carbon nanotube (CNT)-reinforced composites is herein carried out on the basis of atomistic simulation, shear-lag theory and facture mechanics. It is found that neither longer reinforced CNTs nor stronger CNT/matrix interfaces can definitely lead to the better fracture toughness of these composites. In contrast, the optimal interfacial chemical bond density and the optimal CNT length are those making the failure mode just in the transition from CNT pull-out to CNT break. To verify our theory, an atomic/continuum finite element method (FEM) is applied to investigate the fracture behavior of CNT-reinforced composites with different interfacial chemical bond densities. Our analysis shows that the optimal interfacial chemical bond density for (6,6) CNTs is about 5-10% and that increasing the CNT length beyond 100. nm does not further improve fracture toughness, but can easily lead to the self-folding and clustering of the CNTs. The proposed theoretical model is also applicable to short fiber-reinforced composites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1360-1367
Number of pages8
JournalComposites Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • A. CNT-reinforced composites
  • B. Bridging effect
  • B. Fracture toughness
  • C. Multiscale modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • General Engineering


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