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‫محمد كارم سعيد‬

Sec. 5 BN. 16

Durability of FRP Composites

Introduction :
Fiber Reinforced Polymers : It’s a composite material made of polymer matrix
usually (epoxy, vinylester or polyester) reinforced with fibers with very small
diameters usually made of (Glass, Carbon or Armid).
Polymer matrix binds the fibers together and protect fibers from weathering and
work on load transfer between fibers and shapes the FRP component while Fibers
provide strength and stiffness of the composite, matrix material usually gets selected
based on durability characteristics while Fibers based on their strength, cost and
availability of material.
FRP has tremendous potential and has great advantages over conventional materials
and techniques of retrofitting of RC structures. The increase in use of FRP for
retrofitting of RC structure may be attributed to their advantageous properties mainly
- high corrosion resistance, light weight, extremely high strength to weight ratio,
ease of handling and installation (hence substantially reduced working time).
However, there are some factors limiting its frequent use such as very high material
cost, lack of design codes on FRP in many countries, unawareness of or reluctance
to accept existing reports, guidelines and technical publications currently being used

Durability of FRP Composites

The following are major pros and cons of using Composites:

 Corrosion proof.
 Higher UTS and young's modulus.
 Easy in transportation, can be installed easily.
 Light weight. Hence, very high strength to weight ratio.
 High fatigue resistance.
 Joints can be easily avoided as they are available in desired length.
 Low ductility value and fickly plastic behavior
 Susceptible to local unevenness.
 High cost.
 Low shear strength.

History of Composite goes back

ancient Egyptians 1500 years BC who
used a mixture of mud and straws to
create strong buildings, straws
continued to be used as fibers in other
products such as pottery and boats,
Fibers developed with time from just
straws to fibers from plants and from animals hair, In 1900’s with the birth of modern
resins when scientists discovered plastics which was a weak material alone which
lead scientists and engineers to reinforce these resins with advanced fibers like Glass
fibers and carbon fibers, then FRP developed to its modern form and became used
in many industries and its now being used widely in the construction industry.

Durability of FRP Composites

In the construction industry and civil

engineering, FRP composites can replace
some of the conventional building
materials such as Steel rebar, Glass Fiber
reinforced polymer Rebars have higher
strength and lighter in weight than steel.

FRP's can be used in the concrete structures in following forms:

 Plates- at the face to improve the tension capacity.
 Laminates- below beams and slabs to improve load
taking capacity.
 Bars- as reinforcements in beams and slabs replacing
the steel bars
 Cables- can be used as tendons and post- tension
members in suspension and bridge girders.
 Wraps- around concrete members i.e. columns,
beams, slabs etc for confinement.
FRP can also be applied to repair and
strengthen the beams, columns, and slabs of
buildings and bridges. It is possible to
increase the strength of structural members
even after they have been severely damaged
due to loading conditions. In the case of
damaged reinforced concrete members, this
would first require the repair of the member
by removing loose debris and filling in
cavities and cracks with mortar or epoxy
resin. Once the member is repaired, strengthening can be achieved through wet, hand
lay-up of impregnating the fibre sheets with epoxy resin then applying them to the
cleaned and prepared surfaces of the member.

Durability of FRP Composites

There are two techniques that are typically adopted for the strengthening of beams,
relating to the strength enhancement desired: flexural strengthening or shear
strengthening. In many cases it may be necessary to provide both strength
enhancements. For the flexural strengthening of a beam, FRP sheets or plates are
applied to the tension face of the member (the bottom face for a simply supported
member with applied top loading or gravity loading). Principal tensile fibres are
oriented in the beam longitudinal axis, similar to its internal flexural steel
reinforcement. This increases the beam strength and its stiffness, however decreases
the deflection capacity and ductility.

Durability of FRP : According to the ACI 440-07 Durability of FRP used in

concrete “is their ability to resist cracking, oxidation, chemical degradation,
delamination, wear, fatigue, the effects of foreign object damage, or a combination
of these for a specified period of time, under the appropriate load conditions, and
under specified environmental conditions.”

Most construction materials have a finite life. Whilst FRPs are no exception to
deterioration, they can easily be designed to meet even the most challenging service
environment and like all construction materials FRP composites are subject to
deterioration in service due to exposure to certain environmental elements.
Material deterioration may begin through one or more of the following influences:
• Mechanical stresses, including static loading, fatigue, repeated minor impact,
erosion (including water erosion) and abrasion.
• Chemicals (water, solvents, fuels, oils, acids, cleaning liquids, atmospheric oxygen,
oxidizing agents, caustic alkalis etc).
• UV Radiation (including sunlight).
• Heat, including high temperatures and large and rapid fluctuations in temperature.

However FRP are more durable than many conventional building materials, FRP
composites durability is function in many factors such as, type of matrix and fibers,
Different percentages of fibers to matrix, different methods of manufacture and
procedures of installing.
Some of harmful effects causing deterioration of FRP that we are writing about are:

Moisture & Marine Environments, Alkalinity& Corrosion, Heat & Fire, Cold &
Freeze-Thaw Cycling, Sustained Load, Creep, Cyclic loading, Fatigue and
Ultraviolet Radiation.

Durability of FRP Composites

Moisture & marine Environments, as we mentioned

before, one of the advantages of FRP composites is
that they are corrosion proof however they are not
immune to moist exposure as they were observed to
deteriorate under the prolonged exposure to moisture
exposure, this deterioration takes place due to
absorption of the matrix material.

Liquid absorption of the matrix

material reduces the bond between
the matrix and the fibers which in
turn reduces the strength of the FRP

There are several factors which

affects the moisture absorption of
FRPs which are type of matrix and
fibers materials, type and
concentration of liquid, applied
stresses, temperature and
manufacturing and installing

FRP composites can be exposed to liquids as they are being used in many structures
like tanks and marine structures.

Durability of FRP Composites

Alkalinity& Corrosion, concrete is a highly alkaline medium with PH values that

reach 13.6, which is a very good protective medium to steel from corrosion, in the
case of Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer bars (GFRP) which corrosion proof, alkaline
solutions causes embrittlement of the fibers of GFRP bars leading to reduction in
tensile strength of GFRP and damages the interface between matrix and fibes.

On the other hand if Concrete is reinforced by both steel and some types of FRP
rebars such as CFRP they must not be in contact with each other as CFRP can
contribute in the acceleration of steel corrosion in alkaline medium, this phenomena
is known as Galvanic corrosion.

High Temperatures and Fire, as we

mentioned before FRP composites
are now widely used in reinforcing,
repairing and rehabilitation of
bridges and outdoor structures,
However, the use of
epoxy resins limits the effectiveness
of FRP, and therefore, unless
protective (thermal insulation)
systems are provided, the bond
capacity at the FRP-concrete
interface will be extremely low and
mechanical properties will be affected in temperatures above the glass transition
temperature (Tg), As defined by ACI 440-07 glass transition temperature “the
midpoint of the temperature range over which an amorphous material (such as glass
or a high polymer) changes from (or to) brittle, vitreous state to (or from) a rubbery

Also a great loss in tensile strength as high as 80% can be expected at temperatures
like 300o , exposure to high temperatures affects on moisture absorption too.
Also Cold temperatures and freezing & thawing cycles can affect durability of FRP
composites badly as changes in the performance of the composite components may
occur at low temperatures and the bond between the component materials may be
affected badly, also due to thermal expansion bond between Fibers and matrix and
FRP and concrete can be crucial due to different thermal expansion coefficient it can
also result in residual stresses in FRP.

Durability of FRP Composites

Freezing and thawing cycles can affect durability of FRP by cracks occur in the
matrix and decrease the ductility of matrix it may also increase the absorption of
moisture and decreases the tensile strength.

However the effect of cold temperatures on the FRP composites is not the most
significant on durability.

UV Radiations with certain range of wavelength cause deterioration of FRP

composites as it breaks down the chemical bonds between the polymer chain causing
microcracks on the matrix resulting in embrittlement and increase the chance of
deterioration by moisture and alkalinity.

So FRP used in structures should be protected from Radiation by the use of UV

resistant paint, UV resistant resins, coatings and many other methods.

Creep is the tendency of a solid material to move slowly or deform permanently

under the influence of mechanical stresses at which an increase in strain is observed
with sustainability of the stress.

Fibers are insensitive to creep while matrices is which makes creep an important
problem because loads are transferred through the matrix, as it can result in the
rapture of fibers under certain conditions.

Durability of FRP Composites

Fatigue is the weakening of a material caused by repeatedly applied loads. It is the

progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected
to cyclic loading. The nominal maximum stress values that cause such damage may
be much less than the strength of the material typically quoted as the ultimate tensile
stress limit, or the yield stress limit.
Fatigue occurs when a material is
subjected to repeated loading and
unloading. If the loads are above a
certain threshold, microscopic
cracks will begin to form at the
stress concentrators such as the
surface, interfaces of constituents in
the case of composites, and grain
interfaces in the case of
metals. Eventually a crack will
reach a critical size, the crack will
propagate suddenly, and the structure will fracture. The shape of the structure will
significantly affect the fatigue life; square holes or sharp corners will lead to elevated
local stresses where fatigue cracks can initiate. Round holes and smooth transitions
or fillets will increase the fatigue strength of the structure.

all structures are subjected to repeated cycles of loading and unloading due to :
Traffic and other moving loads Thermal effects (differential thermal expansion)
Wind-induced or mechanical vibrations Fatigue performance of most FRPs is as
good as or better than steel.

Damage cause by cyclic loading

Durability of FRP Composites

Fatigue performance of FRP composites depends on toughness of matrix and its

crack resistance, the CFRP is the best fatigue load resistant FRP composite.

Failure due to Fatigue

References :
ACI 440R-07
ISIS Educational module 8 “ Durability of FRP composites for Construction”