Influence of thermomechanical interaction effects on the failure behaviour of polymer foam cored sandwich panels

H.N.K.T. Palleti, S. Zhang, Janice Barton, R.K Fruehmann, O.T. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The paper presents an experimentally based and numerically supported investigation of the collapse behaviour of polymer foam cored sandwich beams subjected to combined mechanical and thermal loading. Recent analytical and numerical modelling results available in the literature have ascertained that collapse may be due to loss of stability induced by nonlinear interactions between mechanical loads and thermally induced deformations, when accounting for the reduction of the polymer foam core mechanical properties with increasing temperature. In the paper, experiments are devised whereby a thermal gradient is introduced into a sandwich beam specimen loaded in three-point bending. The experiments cover a range of temperatures where one face sheet is heated from room temperature (25?) to just below the glass transition temperature of the polymer foam core (70?) and the other face sheet remains at room temperature. Digital image correlation (DIC) is used to obtain the local displacement field of the sandwich beam and its temperature is monitored using an infrared detector and thermocouples. The experimental results are compared with the predictions of both a generally nonlinear finite element model and an analytical so-called high-order sandwich panel theory (HSAPT) model. It is important to note that the HSAPT model has clear limitations as it takes into account only the geometric nonlinearity and thermal degradation of the foam core elastic properties, and it further assumes that the sandwich constituents are linear elastic with infinite straining capability. The HSAPT model predicts the occurrence of a strongly nonlinear load response leading to loss of stability (limit point behaviour). However, the experiments show that for the investigated sandwich beam configuration, it is necessary to include the nonlinear material properties in the modelling, as the nonlinear beam response leading to failure and collapse is significantly influenced by plastic deformations in the constituent materials. Thus, core indentation and extensive plasticity precede the transition to loss of stability driven by geometric nonlinearity and thermomechanical interaction effects. Finite element analyses that include both geometric and material nonlinearities provide results that correlate closely with the experimental observations. The work presented lays the foundation of a methodology for validating complex thermomechanical behaviour in sandwich structures using non-contact full-field measurement systems, and it demonstrates that analytical or numerical models based on the assumption of linear elastic material behaviour (such as the HSAPT model referenced in the paper) generally cannot adequately describe the thermomechanical behaviour of foam-cored sandwich structures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-331
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Sandwich Structures and Materials
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • high-order sandwich panel theory, nonlinear FEA, digital image correlation, thermography, thermal degradation


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