, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 741-745
Date: 18 May 2007

An Evaluation of Fracture Toughness of Vinyl Ester Composites Cured under Microwave Conditions

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Abstract

The shrinkage of vinyl ester particulate composites has been reduced by curing the resins under microwave conditions. The reduction in the shrinkage of the resins by microwaves will enable the manufacture of large vinyl ester composite items possible (H.S. Ku, G. Van Erp, J.A.R. Ball, and S. Ayers, Shrinkage Reduction of Thermoset Fibre Composites during Hardening using Microwaves Irradiation for Curing, Proceedings, Second World Engineering Congress, Kuching, Malaysia, 2002a, 22-25 July, p 177-182; H.S. Ku, Risks Involved in Curing Vinyl Ester Resins Using Microwaves Irradiation. J. Mater. Synth. Proces. 2002b, 10(2), p 97-106; S.H. Ku, Curing Vinyl Ester Particle Reinforced Composites Using Microwaves. J. Comp. Mater., (2003a), 37(22), p 2027-2042; S.H. Ku and E. Siores, Shrinkage Reduction of Thermoset Matrix Particle Reinforced Composites During Hardening Using Microwaves Irradiation, Trans. Hong Kong Inst. Eng., 2004, 11(3), p 29-34). In tensile tests, the yield strengths of samples cured under microwave conditions obtained are within 5% of those obtained by ambient curing; it is also found that with 180 W microwave power, the tensile strengths obtained for all duration of exposure to microwaves are also within the 5% of those obtained by ambient curing. While, with 360 W microwave power, the tensile strengths obtained for all duration of exposure to microwaves are 5% higher than those obtained by ambient curing. Whereas, with 540 W microwave power, the tensile strengths obtained for most samples are 5% below those obtained by ambient curing (H. Ku, V.C. Puttgunta, and M. Trada, Young’s Modulus of Vinyl Ester Composites Cured by Microwave Irradiation: Preliminary Results, J. Electromagnet. Waves Appl., 2007, 20(14), p. 1911-1924). This project, using 33% by weight fly ash reinforced vinyl ester composite [VE/FLYSH (33%)], is to further investigate the difference in fracture toughness between microwave cured vinyl ester particulate composites and those cured under ambient conditions. Higher power microwaves, 540 and 720 W with shorter duration of exposure are used to cure the composites. Short-bar method of fracture toughness measurement was used to perform the tests. Plastic (PVC) re-usable molds were designed and manufactured for producing the test samples. The results show that the fracture toughness of specimens cured by microwave conditions are generally higher than those cured under ambient conditions, provided the power level and duration of microwave irradiation are properly and optimally selected.