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International Journal of Impact Engineering 34 (2007) 11191146


www.elsevier.com/locate/ijimpeng

Experimental investigation of energy-absorption characteristics


of components of sandwich structures
S. Nemat-Nasser, W.J. Kang, J.D. McGee, W.-G. Guo, J.B. Isaacs
Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California,
San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0416, USA
Received 7 July 2004; received in revised form 5 May 2006; accepted 17 May 2006
Available online 28 September 2006

Abstract
Two series of experiments are performed to investigate the dynamic response of various essential components of a class
of sandwich structures, under high-rate inertial loads. One consists of dynamic inertia tests and the other involves dynamic
impact tests. A split Hopkinson bar apparatus is modied and used for these experiments.
First, the energy-absorbing characteristics of the plate material in a sandwich structure are investigated using novel
dynamic inertia tests, paralleled by detailed nite-element simulations. The loading conditions in this case are similar to
those in high-rate pressure loading situations, and hence more closely simulate potential blast effects on structures. Plates
made of DH-36 naval structural steel are used in the dynamic inertia tests. The plates subjected to inertia loading show
membrane deformation behavior, but as the deection or thickness increases, the bending deformation near the clamped
joint becomes signicant.
Second, the dynamic behavior of the core material in a sandwich structure is studied through dynamic impact
(compression) tests, using high-speed photography. In addition, both the quasi-static and dynamic response of the material
is quantied using hydraulic testing machines and the Hopkinson-bar techniques. Aluminum foam as a core material is
used in these experiments. Aluminum foam is a lightweight material with excellent plastic energy absorbing characteristics.
The experimental results show a localized deformation in the metal foam specimens, at suitably high impact velocities. The
simulation results correlate well with the test results in the overall behavior of the metal foam specimens.
With these two experimental methods, the dynamic behavior of sandwich structures under high-rate inertial loading
conditions can be examined minimizing the need for direct pressure-induced impulse experiments. Each series of
experiments is relatively simple and can be performed separately to study the complex behavior of sandwich panels in
simple and well-controlled tests. The validity of separate performance test is shown by a nite element analysis with
aluminum foam core sandwich specimen subjected to blast loading.
r 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords: Energy absorption; Sandwich structures; Experiments; Blast loading; Modeling

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 858 534 4914; fax: +1 858 534 2727.

E-mail address: sia@ucsd.edu (S. Nemat-Nasser).


0734-743X/$ - see front matter r 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
doi:10.1016/j.ijimpeng.2006.05.007

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1. Introduction
Sandwich structures consisting of two plates separated by metal foam, have been considered as potential
candidates to mitigate impulsive (short duration) loads. Their optimal design, subject to ease of manufacturing
and eld implementation, cost, and weight constraints, has been a subject of current interest [1]. Some recent
investigations suggest excellent energy-absorbing characteristics under high-velocity impact loading
conditions [2]. The inner and outer plates, as well as the core material and their dimensions and morphology,
may be adjusted to suit specic applications.
Impulsive loads are usually characterized by a pressure eld that decays with time. The impulse duration is
often very short compared with the time-characteristics of the deformation response of most structures.
Therefore, when a pressure-impulse load is imposed on a sandwich structure, the load may be represented by
assigning an appropriate initial velocity eld to the outer hull plate. The kinetic energy of the outer plate is
absorbed during the deformation of the sandwich structure. To enhance energy absorption, it is important to
select optimal materials under a given set of design constraints.
The behavior of clamped circular plates subjected to uniformly distributed blast loads has been intensively
studied and three failure modes are theoretically analyzed [3]. Experimental techniques have also been
developed to examine three failure modes as the impulse increaseslarge inelastic mode, tearing mode and
transverse shear failure mode [4,5].
In this paper, we report the results of our experimental investigation of the dynamic response of a sandwich
structure to impulsive loads. The structure has a metal foam core and metal outer and inner hull plates that are
made of the naval structural steel, DH-36. This steel shows good ductility and plasticity at low temperatures
and high strain rates, without displaying any noticeable damage and micro-cracking. At relatively high
temperatures and low strain rates, its strength is not very sensitive to the temperature. The material has good
weldability, and its micro-structural evolution does not seem to be very sensitive to the changes in the strain
rate and temperature; see [6].
For the core material, we consider aluminum foam which is lightweight and potentially attractive for its
energy-absorbing characteristics. It has been used in various energy-absorbing structural designs, as well as for
noise and heat protection. Various techniques have been developed to manufacture metal foams [7]. Liquid
metal can be foamed directly by injecting gas or gas-releasing blowing agents, or by producing supersaturated
metal gas solutions. Indirect methods include investment casting or melting of powder compacts which
contain a blowing agent. If inert gas is entrapped in powder compacts, a subsequent heat treatment can
produce cellular metals even in the solid state. The same holds for various sintering methods, metal powder
slurry foaming, or extrusion and sintering of polymer/powder mixtures. The idea of using aluminum foam to
mitigate blast loading is briey mentioned in the design handbook for metal foams [8] and two reports [9,10]
on full-scale explosion tests used to investigate the behavior of aluminum foam panels under blast conditions.
They show that surface effects due to the panel deformation and fracture, control the energy and impulse
transfer.
We report here the results of two series of experiments that are performed to investigate the dynamic
response of sandwich structures under high-rate inertial loads. One consists of dynamic inertia experiments
and the other involves dynamic impact experiments. A split Hopkinson bar apparatus is modied and used for
these experiments. Our results show that the dynamic response of each component of a sandwich structure can
be studied and characterized independently.
First, we study the energy-absorbing characteristics of the plate material in a sandwich structure, using the
dynamic inertia tests, paralleled by detailed nite-element simulations. The loading conditions in this case are
similar to those in high-rate pressure impulse situations. Plates made of DH-36 naval structural steel are used in
the dynamic inertia tests. The specimen under inertia loading shows a membrane deformation behavior at low
deections. From experiments and nite-element simulations, it is also found that, as the deection increases, the
bending effects become important and cannot be ignored in the design of such structural systems.
Second, the dynamic behavior of the core material in a sandwich structure is studied through dynamic
impact (compression) tests and nite-element simulations. Aluminum foam is used as a core material in these
experiments. Aluminum foam is a lightweight material that is considered to have excellent plastic energy
absorbing characteristics. The experimental results show a localized deformation in the metal foam specimens

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at suitably high impact velocities. The simulation results correlate well with the test results in the overall
behavior of the metal foam specimens.
Third, the dynamic behavior of sandwich panels composed of DH-36 plate and aluminum foam is analyzed
by nite-element simulations. A blast loading condition is imposed to the model. Explosion energy is almost
absorbed by front plate and core. If we effectively design the sandwich panel, back plate could be safe during
blast loading. The simulation results show the deformed shape of the plate is similar to that obtained from
dynamic inertia test.
With these two experimental methods, the dynamic behavior of sandwich structures under high-rate inertial
loading conditions can be examined, minimizing the need for direct pressure-induced impulse experiments which
are costly and require highly specialized facilities and expertise. In our approach, each series of experiments is
relatively simple and can be performed separately to study the complex behavior of sandwich panels by simple
and well-controlled tests. Based on this kind of test, it is possible to optimize the material and conguration of
the sandwich structures in order to maximize their energy-absorption capacity under impulsive loads.
2. Dynamic inertia experiments of plates and nite-element simulations
2.1. Dynamic inertia experiments
Fig. 1 shows the experimental setup. A circular (DH-36 steel) plate of uniform (denoted as type-I) or
variable (denoted as type-II) thickness, having a circular rim, is bolted to a 3-in cylindrical (7075 aluminum)
tube of 3-in outer and 2.5-in inner diameter. It is propelled by a gas gun at a controlled velocity towards an
impedance-matched, 12-in long incident tube of the same material and cross section, resting against a 3-in
Hopkinson bar. Upon impact, an elastic compressive wave is produced in both tubes, and within a short time
interval (about several hundreds microseconds), the tube with the attached plate comes to rest, allowing the
unsupported part of the plate to deform under its own inertia force. The deformation mode is similar to
L1=3inch

Circular plate
specimen
(DH-36 steel )

Initial Velocity
(30 ~ 60 m/sec)

Striker tube
( 7075 Al )

L2=12inch

o=
3inch

i=
2.5inch

Incident Bar

Incident tube
(7075 Al )

(a)

TYPE I

TYPE II

(b)
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the experimental setup for inertia test plates in a sandwich structure: (a) test setup; (b) plate geometry
specimens.

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Table 1
Dynamic inertia test conditions and test results
Test no.

Thickness
(mm)

Mass (g)

Impact velocity
(m/s)

Permanent
deection (mm)

Initial kinetic
energy (J)

TYPE 1

DH1
DH2
DH3
DH4
DH5
DH6

1.35
0.89
1.45
1.30
0.83
2.07

85.5
73.9
87.7
84.0
72.3
102.9

40.2
32.1
36.1
57.4
60.2
36.0

2.56
2.08
2.10
4.32
4.85
1.56

306.2
189.0
248.2
621.6
662.8
256.9

TYPE 2

DH7
DH8

1.38
1.32

94.3
91.3

35.7
60.6

2.15
4.82

247.7
706.0

the one that results from a short-duration pressure impulse which would impart an initial velocity to the plate.
The actual impact velocity is measured, using velocity sensors.
A number of tests were performed at various velocities, using plates of different thicknesses. The
experimental conditions and the corresponding results are summarized in Table 1. In tests 7 and 8 a type-II
specimen are used. The impact velocity is varied from about 32 to 60 m/s, and the thickness of the plates varies
from about 0.8 to 2 mm. Fig. 2a shows a deformed plate, and Fig. 2b summarizes the observed permanent
deection (measured at the center of the plates) per unit plate thickness, as a function of the impact velocity.
At the same impact velocity, both the kinetic energy and the strength of the specimen increase as the thickness
increases. The membrane stiffness varies linearly with the plate thickness while the bending stiffness relates
linearly to the square of the thickness. At low velocities, the deection is small and hence the membrane
deformation is dominant, while the bending effect becomes signicant at high impact velocities which produce
large bending deformations. The plastic work in the membrane deformation is much larger than that of the
bending deformation, when the deection is small. Therefore, the energy absorbed by the specimens plastic
deformation has a linear relation with the thickness at low velocities. This means that for the same impact
velocity, as the thickness of the specimen increases, the kinetic energy that is converted into the deformation
energy increases linearly with the thickness. However, as the deection increases, the bending mode begins to
dominate the deformation. In this regime, the energy-absorbing ability and the permanent deection of the
plate is a complex function of its thickness, as is shown in what follows. In Fig. 2, the experimental results for
the type-II plates are given.
2.2. Comparison between simulation and experimental results
The inertia experiments are simulated using the LS-DYNA [11] nite-element code. The nite-element
model is shown in Fig. 3. The plate and both tubes are discretized using solid elements, and a 1/4 symmetric
model is analyzed. In the simulation, it is assumed that the plate is perfectly xed to the striker tube along its
boundary, and no residual stresses are considered. A complete surface-to-surface contact over the interface
between the striker tube and the incident tube is assumed. Since the plate and the striker tube are joined by
bolts, there is some exible interaction between the plate and the striker tube. This interaction is not
considered in the simulation. The striker and incident tubes are considered to be elastic. For the plates, the
physically based constitutive model proposed by Nemat-Nasser and Guo [6] is used. This model is based on
the concept of dislocation kinetics, and extensive experimental data over a broad range of strain rates and
temperatures. Eq. (1) gives the effective stress as a function of the effective strain, effective strain rate, and
temperature for DH-36 structural steel. In Fig. 4, the corresponding stressstrain curves are plotted for
various indicated strain rates at room temperature.
8
"
#1=2 93=2

<
=
g
t 750g1=4 1500 1  6:6  105 T ln
.
(1)
:
;
2  1010

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(a)
7

0.83 mm

4
/H

Specimen Type - II
1.32 mm
1.30 mm

3
0.89 mm

1.35 mm

1.38 mm
1.45 mm

1
2.07 mm

0
30
(b)

35

40

45

50

55

60

65

Impact Velocity (m/sec)

Fig. 2. Dynamic inertia experimental results: (a) deformed shape of a plate; (b) normalized permanent deection measured at the plates
center, as a function of impact velocity, for indicated plate thickness.

Fig. 3. 1/4 symmetric nite element model and boundary conditions for the dynamic inertia experiment.

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Stress[MPa]

1000
900

3000/s
1000/s

800

100/s
10/s
1/s

700

quasi-static

600
500
400
300
200
100
0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

Strain
Fig. 4. Stressstrain curves of DH-36 structural steel for indicated strain rates.

The measured permanent deection proles are compared with the corresponding simulation results in Fig. 5.
As mentioned above, in the simulation, a perfect joint condition between the plates and the striker tube is
assumed, whereas, in reality, the plates are bolted to the tube, providing some exibility at the boundary. As a
result, the predicted permanent deection falls somewhat short of the experimental observations.
In addition, we have conducted a series of parametric studies to explore the effect of the plate thickness and
impact velocity on the permanent deformation and energy absorption. For an impact velocity of 45 m/s, the
time variation of the stress in a typical element of the incident tube is given in Fig. 6a, with the portion marked
A being magnied in Fig. 6b. As is seen, the thickness of the plate has a minor effect on the transmitted stress
pulse, as should be expected; the pulse duration increases slightly with the increase in the plate thickness, due
to the increase in the total length of the striker.
For a 45 m/s impact velocity, the time variation of the plates center deection is plotted in Fig. 7, for
indicated thicknesses. The results show a minor effect of the plates thickness on the permanent deection, at
this impact velocity. Because of the oscillatory nature of the solution, which is inherent to an explicit
calculation, the permanent deection is estimated by suitably averaging the calculated values over 100 ms. Fig.
8 shows the time variation of the energy absorption with the plates thickness for the same impact velocity.
The deection reaches a maximum value at about 100 ms and then rebounds and oscillates around its
permanent value.
The effect of the impact velocity is examined in Fig. 9, which shows the initial peak value of the deection as
a function of the impact velocity, for indicated thicknesses, ranging from 0.76 to 3.05 mm. As is expected, a
higher impact velocity produces a greater peak stress. At the same impact velocity, the peak value of the
deection decreases with the increasing plate thickness.
Wang and Hopkins [12] have analyzed a rigid perfectly-plastic thin circular plate under an impact load, and
concluded that, for innitesimal displacements, the permanent deection at the center of the plate under an
impulse load, is given by
dmax

0:28rV 20 R2
,
sY H

(2)

where V0 is the impulse velocity, r is the density, R is the radius, H is the thickness, and sY is the yield stress of
the plate. This expression is limited to very thin plates undergoing innitesimal deections (less than half of the
plates thickness).

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5
Specimen : DH 1

4.5

Deflection (mm)

Deflection (mm)

3
2.5
2
1.5

3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5

0.5

0.5
5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

Simulation
Experiment

3.5

Specimen : DH2

4.5

Simulation
Experiment

50

10

Distance from CTR (mm)


5

Simulation
Experiment

Deflection (mm)

Deflection (mm)

25

30

35

40

45

50

Simulation
Experiment

4
3
2.5
2
1.5

3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5

0.5

0.5
0

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

10

Distance from CTR (mm)


5

Specimen: DH 5

Deflection (mm)

4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0

10

15

20

25

30

35

Distance from CTR (mm)

40

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

Distance from CTR (mm)

Simulation
Experiment

4.5
Deflection (mm)

20

Specimen : DH4

4.5

3.5

15

Distance from CTR (mm)


5

Specimen : DH 3

4.5

1125

45

50

5
4.5
4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0

Specimen: DH 6

10

15

Simulation
Experiment

20

25

30

35

40

45

50

Distance from CTR (mm)

Fig. 5. Comparison between simulation and experimental deection proles.

Symonds and Wierzbicki [13] have examined the nite pure membrane displacement response of impulsively
loaded clamped circular plates. The maximum deection is then given by
r
dmax
r
0:83V 0
.
(3)
sY
R
Xue and Hutchinson [14] also solved the same circular plate problem using dimensionless parameters and
nite-element simulations based on Eq. (3). The maximum deection is now given by
r
 r
"
 2 #
dmax
r
r
H
H
V0
0:84
 0:03 1  8:3 25
.
(4)
sY
E
R
R
R

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200
H=0.762mm (0.03 in)
H=1.143mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524mm (0.06 in)
H=1.905mm (0.075 in)

100

Stress(MPa)

-100

-200
A
-300

-400

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

Time(sec)

(a)

50
0
-50
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)
H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)

Stress(MPa)

-100
-150
-200
-250
-300
-350
-400
50

55

(b)

60

65

70

75

80

85

90

95

100

Time(sec)

Fig. 6. (a) Time variation of stress in a typical element of the incident tube; (b) magnied region A.

In the present work, we have noted that the numerical simulation results exceed the results based on Eq. (3) by
1015% depending on the thickness to radius ratio, leading to the following empirical modication of Eq. (3):
dmax
0:827
R

r  0:03
r
H
.
V0
sY
R

(5)

While the maximum deection is assumed to depend linearly on the impact velocity, as in Eq. (3), it is now
non-linearly dependent on the normalized thickness of the plate. In Fig. 10, simulation results are compared
with the results from Eq. (5).

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Deflection (mm)

2
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)

H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

Time(sec)
Fig. 7. Time variation of plates center deection for indicated thicknesses.

80
70

Energy Absorption (J)

60
50
40
30
20
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)
H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)

10
0
0

50

100

150

200
250
Time(sec)

300

350

400

Fig. 8. Time variation of energy absorption for indicated thicknesses.

Fig. 11 shows the relation between the maximum plate deection and its thickness, as the impact velocity is
changed. For the same impact velocity, the deection decreases as the thickness increases. For the same impact
velocity, the kinetic energy of the plate is linearly related to its thickness. However, the dissipated energy
relates non-linearly to the plate thickness. This effect becomes more pronounced as the thickness of the plate
increases and the bending effect becomes more important; for a perfectly-plastic model, the bending moment
of the plate is proportional to the square of its thickness. Zaera et al. [15] explain this for a thin plate and small

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7
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)

H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)

Maximum Deflection (mm)

H=3.048 mm (0.120 in)

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Impact Velocity (m/sec)


Fig. 9. Maximum deection of plates center as a function of impact velocity, for indicated thicknesses.

9
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)
H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)
H=3.048 mm (0.120 in)
eq (5)

Max. Deflection / Thickness

7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Impact Velocity (m/sec)


Fig. 10. Comparisons of simulation results with the results from Eq. (5).

deformations, to be due to the dominance of the membrane effect; the membrane energy is proportional to the
plate thickness. Experimental and simulation results also show that the deection has a linear relation with
the plate thickness at low velocities, but when the impact velocity is increased and the deformation is large, the
bending effect cannot be ignored. This can be seen from the results presented in Fig. 12, which gives the
permanent deection per unit thickness as a function of the impact velocity, for various indicated plate

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7
10 m/sec
30 m/sec
45 m/sec
60 m/sec

Max. Deflection / Thickness

0.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

Thickness (mm)
Fig. 11. Maximum deection of plates center per unit thickness as a function of thickness, for indicated impact velocities.

10
H=0.762 mm (0.030 in)
H=1.143 mm (0.045 in)
H=1.524 mm (0.060 in)
H=1.905 mm (0.075 in)

Permanent Deflection / Thickness

9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
25

35

45

55

65

75

85

Impact Velocity (m/sec)


Fig. 12. Permanent deection of plates center per unit thickness as a function of impact velocity, for indicated thicknesses.

thicknesses. As the impact velocity increases, the permanent deection increases, depending non-linearly on
the thickness.
Fig. 13 represents the relation between the deformation energy and the thickness of the plate for indicated
impact velocities. The membrane energy is more important when the deection at the plates center is larger
than the thickness of the plate. Since the ratio of the radius over the thickness is greater than 20, in these
experiments the primary energy absorption is by the membrane mode [15]. The energy absorption of the plate
has a linear relation to its thickness for a 30 m/s impact velocity. For a 60 m/s impact velocity, although the

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18
16

30 m/sec
45 m/sec
60 m/sec

Energy absorption (J)

14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
0.5

1.5

Thickness (mm)
Fig. 13. Energy absorption as a function of thickness, for indicated impact velocities.

membrane mode dominates the deformation, bending of the specimen near the clamped area cannot be
ignored, which is producing a non-linear dependency on the plate thickness as seen in Figs. 12 and 13.
3. Dynamic compression test of aluminum foam
Metal foams may be used as energy-absorbing lightweight materials, e.g., in crash zones of lightweight
structures [16,17], as well as for noise and heat protection. Due to their cellular microstructure, metal foams
deform at a nearly constant plateau stress, absorbing impact and shock energy by plastic-work dissipation in
compression. For engineering design, the mechanical behavior of this material must be experimentally
established. The compressive ow stress and energy-absorption ability depend on the materials density that
can be modied to tailor the resulting properties [18]. In the present study, the dynamic compressive behavior
of an aluminum foam as a core material for sandwich structures is studied experimentally and by numerical
simulation.
3.1. Experimental setup and results
The experiments are performed using a 3-in Hopkinson bar setup shown in Figs. 1416. With this facility,
the dynamic behavior of the core material of a sandwich structure or a micro-truss structure can be
investigated. Large strains at high deformation rates can be imposed on the specimen to study its dynamic
response. In this experiment, a short projectile impacts an aluminum foam specimen and the deforming sample
is photographed using an Imacon 200 high-speed camera. Just before the impact, the velocity of the projectile
is measured by velocity sensors attached near the end of the gas gun. The force transmitted through the sample
is measured by a strain gauge attached to the 3-in output bar. The projectile is a 3-in diameter, 4.5-in long 7075
aluminum bar, weighing 1460 g. The round-trip travel time for the elastic wave in the projectile is about 50 ms.
The samples are made from Duocels Aluminum Foam Alloy 6101 and have 810% nominal density (40PPI).
The impact velocity can be varied from 30 to about 55 m/s.
The time-history of the projectile velocity may be estimated by assuming that the sample is in equilibrium
and using the stress data to determine the time-variation of the force retarding the projectile. This calculated
projectile velocity is compared with the measured one in Fig. 17. The impact duration depends on the impact

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Fig. 14. Schematic diagram of the dynamic compression test of the core material for a sandwich structure.

Fig. 15. Photo of an aluminum foam specimen attached to the output Hopkinson bar.

velocity, and in these tests it ranges from 1000 to 4000 ms. Equally spaced marks are placed on the specimen
and used to estimate the engineering strain distribution at several stages in the course of the specimen
deformation. Below, we report our experimental results for two tests, denoted as test-I and test-II,
corresponding to impact velocities of 32.3 and 52.6 m/s, respectively.
Figs. 1820 represent the test-I results. Fig. 18 shows the deformed shape of the specimen, captured by an
Imacon-200 high-speed camera at 125 ms time intervals. The total nominal strain of the specimen is 58%. Fig.
19 shows the corresponding nominal stress history. Within the rst 900 ms after impact, the specimen is mostly
under a plateau stress of about 3 MPa. The stress increases gradually as the specimen is compacted. Fig. 20
shows the specimens local engineering strain history, directly calculated from the markings on the specimen.
The impact initiates deformation at the impacted face. As time elapses, the far end region of the specimen
begins to deform at a greater rate relative to the region close to the impacted end. The maximum engineering
strain near the impact surface is about 40%, and, near the far end, it is about 70%. This nonuniform distribution of strain is caused by the compressive stress pulse that reects as compression off the

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Fig. 16. Experimental setup for dynamic compression tests of metal foams.

Time (sec.)
0

0.0005

0.001

0.0015

0.002

0.0025

60
Velocity from stress Calc

Velocity (m/sec)

50

Measured Velocity

40
30
20
10
0
-10
Fig. 17. Measured and calculated projectile velocity.

output bar, back into the specimen, increasing the total stress in the region near the far end. Onck [19] studied
the effect of specimen size relative to the cell size of aluminum foams. The Youngs modulus and plastic
collapse strength of foams increase to a plateau level as the ratio of the specimen size to the cell size increases.
Figs. 2123 represent the test-II results. In this case, the impact velocity was 52.6 m/s. Fig. 21 shows the
deformed shape of the specimen. The time interval between the photos again is 125 ms. The total nominal
strain of the specimen is 85%. Fig. 22 shows the nominal stress history. At about 1250 ms after impact, there is
a sudden jump in the stress. Prior to this, the specimen is under a plateau stress regime. Fig. 23 shows the
estimated engineering strain history at various indicated regions within the specimen. Initially, the region near
the impact face is rapidly deformed to 60% in about a 300 ms time interval, while the strain in the far-end

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Fig. 18. Result of Test-I: Deformed shapes of the foam specimen at the impact velocity of projectile of 32.3 m/s.

Stress vs time Sample ALF 2


7

Nominal Stress (psi)

6
5
4
3
2
1
0
0

0.0002

0.0004

0.0006

0.0008

0.001

0.0012

0.0014

0.0016

Time (seconds)
Fig. 19. Result of Test-I: Nominal stress history of the foam specimen at the impact velocity of projectile of 32.3 m/s.

region is less than 10%. In time, rst the central and then the far-end regions of the specimen begin to undergo
large deformations, also reaching about 60%. Thereafter, the specimen deforms more or less uniformly to a
maximum engineering strain of about 85%. This deformation history differs considerably from that of the
test-I. For an impact velocity of about 32.3 m/s, large deformations are initiated rst at the far end of the
specimen (Fig. 20), whereas for the 52.6 m/s impact velocity, large deformations rst occur near the impact
zone (Fig. 23). Furthermore, the engineering strain distribution is initially non-uniform in both cases, but,

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0.00

P1
P2
P3
P4
P5
P6

-0.10
-0.20

Eng. Strain

-0.30
-0.40
-0.50
-0.60
-0.70
IMPACT
-0.80
P6 P5 P4 P3 P2 P1
-0.90
-1.00
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

1800

2000

Time (msec)
Fig. 20. Engineering strain history of the specimen impacted at a 32.3 m/s velocity.

Fig. 21. Result of Test-II: Deformed shapes of the foam specimen at the impact velocity of projectile of 52.6 m/s.

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25

Nominal Stress (MPa)

ALF-3 Nominal Stress

20
15
10
5
0
0

0.0005

0.001

0.0015

0.0025

0.002

-5
Time (sec.)
Fig. 22. Result of Test-II: Nominal stress history of the foam specimen at the impact velocity of projectile of 52.6 m/s.

0.10
0.00

P1
P2
P3
P4
P5
P6

-0.10
-0.20

Eng.Strain

-0.30
-0.40
-0.50
-0.60
-0.70
IMPACT
-0.80
P6 P5 P4 P3 P2P1
-0.90
-1.00
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

1800

Time(sec)
Fig. 23. Engineering strain history of the specimen impacted at a 52.6 m/s velocity.

after compaction, it becomes more uniform in the test-II than in the test-I regime. In the test-II regime, the
maximum engineering strain in the region near the impact face is about 80%, but at the far end, it is about
90%.
Shock-wave propagation in metal foams has been examined by Lopatnikov et al. [20,21], Deshpande and
Fleck [22,23], and Paul and Ramamurty [24]. The effective sound velocity, c, in a metal-foam bar may be
estimated using
s

1
qs; r0
c
,
r; r0
q

(6)

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500

AL FOAM (DUOCEL, 40PPI)

Effective sound velocity (m/sec)

450
400
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
0
0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

Eng. Strain
Fig. 24. Effective sound velocity in aluminum foam.

where s; r0 is the instantaneous uniaxial stress, and s; r0 is the current density that may be estimated
from
r
r; r0 0 ,
(7)
1
where r0 is the initial density. While not exact, these estimates are appropriate since most metallic foams show
minimal lateral expansion in uniaxial compaction; i.e., they have very small Poissons ratios even at rather
large deformations. Fig. 24 shows the effective sound velocity in a Duocel aluminum foam bar, calculated
using Eq. (6). In the elastic range, this velocity is about 450 m/s, but it decreases to about 50 m/s in the plateau
range of the stressstrain curve. As the compaction proceeds, the sound velocity increases. When full
compaction is approached, the sound velocity approaches that of the constituent material. Since the effective
sound velocity in the plateau range varies from 50 to 200 m/s, a shock front forms for an impact velocity
greater than 50 m/s, as in the test-II regime. Initially, an elastic pulse propagates to the far end of the specimen
at a 450 m/s velocity. This elastic precursor moves along the sample faster than the shock front, which then
forms near the impact face, once the stress in the bar reaches the plateau level.
3.2. Quasi-static and dynamic properties of aluminum foam
To aid the simulations, compressive stressstrain curves are obtained for the foam material, using Instron
and split-Hopkinson bar testing facilities. Fig. 25 shows the quasi-static engineering stressengineering strain
curve of the aluminum foam. The dotted straight line is the volumetric strain. The Poissons ratio of the
material is measured and plotted in Fig. 26. As is seen, the Poissons ratio is very small in the plateau region,
i.e., less than 1% for strains up to 35%, then increases to about 3% for a 60% axial strain, and does not
exceed 8% even for a 70% axial strain.
The strain-rate effect in aluminum foams has been studied by a number of investigators. It has been shown
that Duocel aluminum foams deform more or less uniformly and their plateau stress is insensitive to the strain
rate in the 10310+3 s1 strain-rate range [2024]. Deshpande and Fleck [22,23] investigated the strain-rate
effect in Alulight and Duocel aluminum foams, using a split Hopkinson bar apparatus. They found that, over
the range of 1035000 s1 strain rates, there is essentially no change in the dynamic ow stress. We have also
performed similar experiments, and some of the results are given in Fig. 27, showing that the strain-rate effect
can be neglected in the considered aluminum foam.

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18

1137

0.80
Aluminum Foam, 296K, 0.001/s

16

0.70
0.60

12
0.50
10
0.40
8
0.30

Volume Strain

Eng. Stress (MPa)

14

6
0.20

0.10

2
0
0.00

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

0.60

0.70

0.80

0.00
0.90

Eng. Strain
Fig. 25. Engineering stress and volumetric strain versus engineering strain for aluminum foam.

Fig. 26. Poissons ratioengineering strain curve of aluminum foam.

3.3. Numerical simulations


The dynamic compression tests of aluminum foams are simulated with the aid of the explicit nite-element
code, LS-DYNA 960 [11]. Fig. 28 shows a nite-element model of the projectile, aluminum foam, and the
output bar, using a 1/4 symmetric model with 8-node brick elements. The contact between the aluminum-foam
specimen and the projectile, as well as that with the output bar is modeled using the codes surface-to-surface
contact option with no friction. Since the bulk modulus of steel is considerably greater than that of the
aluminum foam, solution stability is attained using contact stiffness based on the nodal mass and the global
time-step size provided by the SOFT option in the code; see [11] users manual. Since the length of the output
bar in the nite-element model is much less than the actual one in the experiment, a non-reecting boundary

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25
Al Foam, 40 PPI
8.4%, density, 296K

Eng. Stress (MPa)

20

15

10-3/s
10-1/s

10
2200/s
5

0
0.00

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

0.60

0.70

0.80

0.90

Eng. Strain
Fig. 27. Engineering stressengineering strain curves of aluminum foam at indicated strain rates.

Fig. 28. Finite-element model of the dynamic compression test.

condition is imposed at the far end of the bar in the model calculations to prevent back reections of the elastic
waves.
The linearly elastic projectile and the output bar are modeled using the MAT-ELASTIC option of the code,
suitable for linear elasticity. MAT-CRUSHABLE-FOAM material model in the code is based on a continuum
elasticplastic relation that allows for large volumetric strains; in the present case, essentially uniaxial strain.
The MAT-CRUSHABLE-FOAM material model in [11] can be used to simulate low-density foams with zero
Poisson effect. This foam model is isotropic and assumes that the Youngs modulus is constant; see [11] theory
manual. It thus may be used to simulate the compaction of the aluminum foam specimen.
The basic mechanical properties are summarized in Table 2. The compaction strain is calculated using Eq.
(7). The engineering stresstrue volumetric strain curve of the aluminum foam is shown in Fig. 29, together
with those of two copper foams of different densities, as comparison. Based on the data in Fig. 27, the strainrate effects are negligible for the aluminum foam. On the other hand, the behavior of metal foams highly
depends on the loading paths. Various constitutive models have been suggested to account for this; see, e.g.,
[19,22,23,25,26]. These constitutive models allow for different yielding behaviors under tension and

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1139

Table 2
Basic mechanical properties used in the simulation of the dynamic compression of an aluminum foam specimen
Density (kg/m3)

Youngs Modulus
(GPa)

Poisson ratio

Projectile (7075 Al.)

2,770

70

0.345

Output bar (Steel)

7,830

210

0.290

Specimen (Al. foam)

Initial

Full compact

Initial

Full compact

Initial

Full compact

258

2770

0.054

70

0.345

Fig. 29. Engineering stressvolumetric strain curves of several metal foams.

compression, as well as for differential hardening along different loading paths. Hanssen et al. [9,10] have
discussed and compared several formulations of the yield surface, and hardening and plastic ow rules for an
aluminum foam material model. The LS-DYNA [11] material model has also been calibrated and evaluated
using the established validation program. Even for a relatively simple loading path, these constitutive models
yield different predictions, with none being able to accurately represent the experimental results.
3.4. Comparison between experimental and simulation results
Figs. 30ac show the simulation results for indicated impact velocities. In all cases, the engineering strain at
the impact surface is greater than that at any other point. However, in time the response changes, depending
on the impact velocity. At a low velocity of 10 m/s, sufcient compaction does not occur, leading to a highly
non-uniform strain distribution. On the other hand, for much greater impact velocities that can lead to 60% or
greater compactions, the strain distribution eventually becomes more or less uniform.
In order to compare the energy-absorbing ability of the metal foams in terms of their strength and density,
the responses of aluminum and copper foams are compared. While the plateau stress for the aluminum foam is
larger than that of the copper foam, the density of the aluminum foam is much less than that of the copper
foam. The quasi-static volumetric strain-engineering stress curves of these materials are shown in Fig. 29.
Fig. 31 gives the simulated collapse length of these foam specimens, for a common initial length of 76.2 mm,

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Impact velocity : 30m/sec


0

-0.02

-0.1
P1 (Impacted end)
P2
P3
P4
P5 (Fixed end)

-0.06
-0.08

(a)

-0.3
-0.4
-0.5

-0.1
-0.12

P1 (Impacted end)
P2
P3
P4
P5 (Fixed end)

-0.2

-0.04

Axial Strain

Axial strain

Impact velocity : 10m/sec


0

-0.6
0

200

400

600

-0.7

800 1000 1200 1400 1600

Time(sec)

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

Time(sec)

(b)
Impact Velocity : 50m/sec

0
P1 (Impacted end)
P2
P3
P4
P5 (Fixed end)

-0.1
-0.2
Axial strain

-0.3
-0.4
-0.5
-0.6
-0.7
-0.8
-0.9
-1
(c)

200

400

600

800 1000 1200 1400 1600

Time(sec)

Fig. 30. Simulation results-Engineering strain distribution in aluminum foam: (a) 10 m/s; (b) 30 m/s; and (c) 50 m/s.

and Fig. 32 compares the corresponding energy-absorbing ability. The average force is calculated by dividing
the total dissipated energy by the total length reduction. The average force is a measure of the energyabsorption ability per unit collapse length. Hence, from the results in Fig. 31 it may be inferred that the
aluminum foam is more effective than the corresponding copper foams as a light-weight energy absorbing
material.
Figs. 33 and 34 compare the simulated engineeringstrain histories with the corresponding experimental
results. As mentioned in Section 3.3, the engineeringstrain distribution in a tested specimen is non-uniform.
Although simulation results show this to some degree, they predict more uniform deformation histories than
those observed experimentally. The real aluminum foam has a cellular structure with numerous defects that
are not considered in the nite-element model. In an actual dynamic deformation, strain localization generally
occurs; see photos in Fig. 25. To consider this, in materials with cellular structures, rened unit cells must be
modeled. Using a multiple-cell model, the localization of deformation caused by, e.g., density variation and
material defects may be simulated; see, e.g., [27,28]. The nite-element model used in the present study is based
on a continuum approximation of the metal foams, thus, predicting more uniform strain distributions. The
overall behavior however is predicted reasonably well.
4. Deformation of sandwich panels subjected to blast loads
In order to investigate mechanical performance of sandwich panels under blast loading condition, steel plate
and aluminum foam core were tested separately. Primary deformation modes obtained from each test are large
inelastic membrane deformation for steel plate and compression for aluminum foam core. Since the plate and

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80
AL FOAM (40PPI)
CU FOAM (100PPI)
CU FOAM (50PPI)

Collapse length (mm)

70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

Impact Velocity (m/sec)


Fig. 31. Simulated collapse lengths for indicated metal foams.

35

AL FOAM (40PPI)
CU FOAM (100PPI)
CU FOAM (50PPI)

30

Average force (N)

25
20
15
10
5
0
0

10

20
30
40
Impact velocity (m/sec)

50

60

Fig. 32. Simulated average force for several metal foams.

the core of sandwich panels have interactions each other, it is necessary to investigate the deformation
subjected to blast loads. Radford et al. [29] reported a higher shock resistance of aluminum foam core
sandwich panels than plate structures when a metal foam projectile impacts a sandwich panel.
In this study, to investigate blast loading effects, a nite element model of aluminum foam core sandwich
panel is modeled as like in Fig. 35. Small explosion takes place at one side of the specimen and a portion of the
other side is xed. The diameter of the specimen is same as in the inertia test. DH-36 is used as a 1 mm plate
and 5 mm aluminum foam core is used. LS-DYNA [11] is also used in simulation and the constitutive relations
for each material are the same as explained in the previous sections. To model the explosion, the ConWep

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0
P1 (Simulation)
P2 (Simulation)
P3 (Simulation)
P1 (Experiment)
P2 (Experiment)
P3 (Experiment)

-0.1
-0.2

Eng. Strain

-0.3
-0.4
-0.5
-0.6

IMPACT
P3 P2 P1

-0.7
-0.8
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

1800

2000

Time(sec)
Fig. 33. Simulated engineering-strain history at indicated points of for a 32.3 m/s impact velocity.

0
P1 (Simulation)
P2 (Simulation)
P3 (Simulation)
P1 (Experiment)
P2 (Experiment)
P3 (Experiment)

-0.1
-0.2

Eng. strain

-0.3
-0.4
-0.5
-0.6
-0.7
IMPACT
-0.8
P3 P2 P1
-0.9
-1
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

1400

1600

Time(sec)
Fig. 34. Simulated engineering-strain history at indicated points of for a 52.6 m/s impact velocity.

function is used, which is known as adequate for blast loading on simple structural surfaces; see [11] users
manual. The schematic diagram of the pressure eld induced from the function is shown in Fig. 36. Since the
specimen is very small and in order not to induce tearing, small amount of TNT is used, which is 2 g.
Deformed shapes of the sandwich panel are represented in Fig. 37. Energy is almost absorbed by front plate
and core. The deformation of core is compression at the center of the explosion. Maximum compression of the

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1143

Fig. 35. A blast loading condition and a 1/4-symmetric nite-element model of a sandwich panel.

Pressure

Distance from the center of


the explosion

Time
Fig. 36. A schematic diagram of the pressure eld produced by CONWEP function.

foam core is reached at around 80 ms. Since the maximum velocity of the center of the front plate is above
100 m/s, a shock front formed in the core as explained in Section 3.1. Due to this shock front, the deformation
of the front plate is much faster than that of back panel. The proles of the front and back panels are
represented in Fig. 38 with respect to time. The maximum displacement of the front plate is about 4.5 mm at
80 ms, and the amount of the compression is about 3.3 mm.
The transient deformation prole between sandwich panel and dynamic inertia test can be compared with
Fig. 38(a) and 39. In Fig. 39, deformation prole is obtained from a dynamic inertia simulation with 1 mm
specimen. To get around 4.5 mm maximum deection as like in the blast simulation, the impact velocity 45 m/s
from Fig. 11 was used. The two deformation proles are similar but not exactly same. Before the maximum
deection reached, the transient shape is different because, in case of the dynamic inertia test, the impulse is
transmitted from the incident tube. However, since the nal shape of the plate is quite similar in both cases, the
energy absorption ability can be examined by the inertia test.
5. Conclusion
Two series of experiments are performed to investigate the dynamic response of sandwich structures under
high-rate inertial loads: (1) dynamic inertia tests to characterize the plate response, and (2) dynamic impact

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Fig. 37. Deformation shape of the sandwich panel at indicated instances.

5.0
4.0

80sec

4.0

Deflection (mm)

Deflection (mm)

5.0

40sec
3.0
200sec

2.0

20sec

1.0

3.0
2.0
80sec
1.0
40sec

0.0

(a)

10

15

20

25

30

Distance from CTR (mm)

35

0.0

40

(b)

200sec
10

15

20

25

30

35

40

Distance from CTR (mm)

Fig. 38. Comparison of the deformed shape of front and back panels: (a) deformed shape of front plate, (b) deformed shape of back plate.

tests to characterize the core material response. Hence, the dynamic response of each component of a
sandwich structure is studied and characterized independently.
The loading conditions are similar to that of a blast loading. The plates under inertia loading show
membrane deformation behavior, but as the deection or thickness increases, the bending deformation near
the clamped joint becomes signicant. The dynamic behavior of the core material is studied using dynamic
compression tests. Aluminum foam is used in the experiments. Aluminum foam is a lightweight material with
good plastic energy absorbing characteristics. The experimental results show a localized deformation before
the specimen is compacted to 60%. The simulation does not predict this kind of non-uniform deformation, but
it does produce the overall observed behavior of the metal foam. The experiment and simulation results show
that the localized deformation changes as the impact velocity is varied. If the impact velocity is greater than
50 m/s, the deformation begins near the impacted face.
Blast loading onto a sandwich panel is simulated and compared to the separated test methods. The foam
core compressed very fast from the front face and shows effective shock resistance behavior. The front plate
deformation is quite similar to the dynamic inertia test except some early transient time. From these results,

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5.0
200sec
Deflection (mm)

4.0
3.0

300sec

2.0
80sec
1.0
40sec
0.0

10

20
30
Distance from CTR (mm)

40

Fig. 39. Deformed shapes of the inertia-test specimen.

the separate test methods can be successfully used to verify the energy absorption ability of each material in
sandwich panels.
Acknowledgements
This work has been supported by ONR (MURI) Grant N000140210666 to the University of California, San
Diego, with Dr. Roshdy G. Barsoum as Program manager.
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