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composite vehicle research center An introduction from the Director

air ground marine applications

CVRC Director, Eann Patterson (center) and Dean Satish Udpa (right) in discussion with US Senator Levin (left) during a visit to the center.

I invite you to browse this brochure, find something of interest, and call or send us an email. We hope to create a new paradigm for a university research center through collaboration across the size scale, from nano to macro, i.e. from current revolutionary developments in material science to the design of advanced components and structures for vehicles. At the same time we aim to collaborate across the innovation process from breakthrough research through technology validation to product development by forming close relationships with participants in the innovation process, such as research organizations, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and end-users. The Composite Vehicle Research Center in the College of Engineering at Michigan State University is housed in modern, open-plan laboratories and offices that encourage cross-discipline collaboration. The following pages are intended to provide a brief overview of our activities; if you would like to find out more, please get in touch with me.

Eann Patterson

Gary Cloud

Larry Drzal

Soonsung Hong

Dahsin Liu

Center Director THRUST AREAS impact resistance resistance of vehicles and their occupants to crash and high-energy impacts

composite joining


multi-functional composites


self-diagnostic composites


structural integrity of composites




design and manufacture


design and reliability of efficient joints in composite structures design, fabrication, and integration of mechanical, thermal, electrical, and self-healing properties in composite structures embedded devices for non-destructive evaluation and structural health monitoring evaluation and prediction of fatigue life and durability for three-dimensional components exploration of designs in nature to create efficient structures ensuring design and manufacturability of innovations from research 2

design validated by experiment


Al Loos

Gaetano Restivo

Arjun Tekalur

Xinran Xiao

Participating Faculty EMPHASIS on composite vehicles and vehicle components. A NEW PARADIGM for collaboration through a unique global consortium of federal labs, international industrial collaborators, and the premier land-grant university. DESIGN VALIDATED BY EXPERIMENT by integrating analytical, numerical, and experimental approaches. AN EXPERIMENTAL MECHANICS group with an international reputation. A WORLD CLASS composite materials research center. 3


creativity l innovation l dissemination l

Fundamental research driven by creative thinking to generate new knowledge and understanding related to thick-section composites for use in vehicles.

Successful transition of new knowledge into product development through intimate collaborations with research organizations and industrial partners.

Fundam Fringe projection image used for evaluating shape and deformation

design validated by experiment 4

l the driving forces of CVRC activities Innovation begins with research and extends through product qualification. The CVRC aims to unify this often fragmented process through a consortium with industry and research labs that provides: - expertise across the spectrum of composite materials and structures - representation from researchers, manufacturers, suppliers, and end-users - technology and knowledge exchange across disciplines and industries - international participation to ensure a world-class activity


mental Research


Technology Transfer





Design of Advanced Composite Materials for High-Performance Vehicles: Quasi three-dimensional woven composites which improve the delamination resistance and energy absorption capabilities, while maintaining adequate in-plane properties of structures. Dynamic Test Facility for Laboratory Simulations: A laboratory-based ‘shock tube’ is available for physical simulation of high-energy impacts and crash loads. Numerical modeling techniques are being designed to simulate the response of composite vehicles subjected to impact and crash loadings. The approach is based on a meshless peridynamic scheme incorporating progressive damage processes, solid-solid contact and solid-fluid interaction mechanisms.


design validated by experiment

IMPACT RESISTANCE Safer vehicles for air, ground, and marine.



design validated by experiment 8

Photoelastic fringe pattern in a section from an epoxy bolt and nut.

How it fits together makes a difference Joints, whether mechanical, adhesive, or hybrid, are critical to the performance of composite structures because they transfer high loads even as they create significant stress concentrations. Structural failures usually originate at joints. Bolted joints are an important are of interest because of their widespread use for ease of assembly/disassembly; and their application to thick composite sections is a major focus of this thrust area. Design and optimization of joints requires creative thinking, complex numerical analyses, and extensive experimental validations. Fully 3-dimensional static and dynamic finite element analyses are coupled with novel experimental methods for validation. Fiber optic strain gages embedded during manufacturing provide through-thethickness strain analysis. Digital speckle pattern interferometry is also used for surface and interior strain field measurements. Long-term objectives include the exploration of hybrid mechanical/adhesive joining of composites and the design of a novel hybrid system for structural and panel connections.



MULTI-FUNCTIONAL COMPOSITES The next generation of composite structures have to be stiffer, stronger, tougher, lighter, more durable, and smart: multi-functional. While the mechanical properties are generally defined by the choice of fiber, matrix, and fiber architecture, a new window has opened to radically improve, not only the composite mechanical properties but their electrical and thermal properties as well, by the addition of a small amount of nanoparticles strategically placed on and between the reinforcing fibers in composite materials.

Molecular model of a vinyl ester modified by a graphite nanoparticle.


design validated by experiment

inter-collated graphite

expanded graphite

lightly pulvarized graphite

Tiny changes make a HUGE differerence.

Small additions of selected nano-particles introduced into the matrix and interface in composite materials can radically improve the mechanical, electrical, thermal, barrier, flammability, and impact behavior of structures. The development and deployment of this revolutionary material and process technology is being actively explored for vehicle applications with a focus on creating multi-functional structures with increased efficiency and effectiveness.



Preventing catastrophic failures by detecting and monitoring flaws

and damage is a primary concern in the design, manufacturing, and testing of composite structures being developed for advanced air, ground, and marine vehicles. During scheduled maintenance, non-destructive evaluation methods based on various physical principles such as x-rays, ultrasound, and laser optics can be employed to evaluate structural reliability without harming the future usefulness of the structures.


design validated by experiment


It would be much more beneficial if a composite structure could diagnose its own structural health and residual life. This concept, so called ‘smart materials and structures’ is often implemented by using embedded sensors and real-time monitoring. The main aim of this thrust area is to develop experimental and analytical schemes to establish such self-diagnostic composite structures.



STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY How many flights before an airplane wears out? Will a composite body panel continue to perform its role after an impact? These are the questions to be answered by research in structural integrity. Engineering materials suffer from fatigue and also age under static, dynamic, and environmental loading experienced during service. Laboratory experiments enable the investigation of the processes and mechanisms of property degradation under these conditions. This knowledge is crucial to developing and modeling new materials and to improving the design for the safety and optimal performance of engineering structures. Composite materials tend to possess good fatigue resistance; however, the mechanisms of failure are not well understood. At Michigan State University, the study of the fatigue life and durability prediction of composites will help engineers to design composite structures for vehicles that are more efficient — lighter, stronger, and longer lasting.


design validated by experiment

Thermoelastic stress analysis of a composite panel subject to biaxial cyclic loading.




Biomimetics employs lessons from Mother Nature to help drive the design process. Rather than reinventing something that has already undergone the ultimate test of survival and nature’s fury, we look to the world around us for inspiration. The classical example of Velcro and the contemporary example of self-cleaning paints are excellent showcases of the success of a biomimetic strategy. Specifically of interest to the CVRC are protective structures such as shells and exoskeletons. How are these structures made to withstand predation? What makes them so effective? What are the factors that govern the design of these structures? How can we identify and adopt the most successful design strategy? The answers to these questions will support the development of novel designs for safer and greener vehicles.


design validated by experiment

Nature’s had plenty of trial runs. It’s already done the hard part.



Novel weaving machine used in the production of quasi three-dimensional composites.

Design and manufacture ensures that innovations generated can be converted into practical designs and manufactured at an acceptable cost. The selection and development process to fabricate composite structures is completed within the CVRC. It will offer the industry safe and affordable techniques for the manufacturing of light-weight, durable and safe vehicles. To achieve this, extensive use of science-based process simulation models, and design by experiment is employed. The models relate the applied temperatures and pressures, and the properties of the constituent materials to the thermal, chemical, physical, and mechanical processes that occur during fabrication. The benefits include simulation models that provide a better understanding as a basis for optimization.


design validated by experiment

DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE Optimize process design Provide a better understanding Reduce manufacturing cost and risk

A manufacturing facility is being constructed to fabricate composite structures using low-cost, non-autoclave methods such as vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM). In the VARTM process, dry, net-shape fibrous textile reinforcements are infused with a liquid resin and cured in a single step to produce a structural part. Instrumented tools are being designed and fabricated for model verification and the manufacture of prototype composite structures. The issues associated with practical designs and their manufacture are being pursued and will involve both technology transfer from other groups around the world and original research. contact:


GOALS To advance the design of composite shells and structures for vehicles

To incorporate material science at the

nanoscale with engineering at the macroscale

To develop and implement novel technologies for non-destructive evaluation and structural prognosis

To disseminate and commercially exploit fundamental research

design validated by experiment

Integration of simulation and experimental mechanics in design guidelines for vehicles.

CVRC Mini Mag  

Small 22-pg catalog made for Michigan State University Composite Vehicle Research Center for a congressional walk-thru for grant approval

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