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Composites Engineering, Vol. 5, No. 7, pp.

913-921, 1995
Copyright © 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd
Pergamon Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved
0961-9526/95 $9.50+ ~00

0961-9526(95) 00036-4


Victor Birman
University of Missouri-Rolla, Engineering Eduction Center, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St Louis,
MO 63121, U.S.A.
(Received 9 December 1994;final version accepted 10 February 1995)
Abstract--This paper presents a formulation of the stability problem for a rectangular composite
plate reinforced by two types of fibers, one of them being both stiffer and more expensive than
the other. An obvious design solution based on cost containment is to concentrate stiffer and more
expensive fibers in the area of the plate where they can provide a maximum benefit to its stability.
In the present paper, the stiffer fibers replace a certain fraction of "ordinary" fibers in the layers
of the plate oriented along the load direction. Moreover, a distribution of the volume fraction of
these fibers across the width of the corresponding layers is nonuniform (piece-wise distribution).
The goal is to maximize the buckling load subject to the constraint on the total cross-sectional
area of the stiffer fibers. The solution can be obtained exactly by integrating the equation of
equilibrium for each plate region where the stiffnesses are constant and satisfying the continuity
and boundary conditions. Another approach, which is employed in this paper, is based on the
Galerkin procedure. Numerical examples illustrate a possibility of a significant enhancement of
the buckling load using functionally graded hybrid composite plates.


Functionally graded materials became an i m p o r t a n t new area in development o f c o m p o -

sites. Significant attention has been paid to various theoretical and practical aspects o f
these materials, as reflected in n u m e r o u s papers on this subject (see, for example, the
special issue in Comp. Engng 4(1) 1994).
Naturally, the purpose o f functionally graded materials is to optimize a composite
structure and its response. In addition, technological problems and cost should be
i m p o r t a n t factors in a decision to apply a functionally graded a p p r o a c h to an actual
design. One o f the relatively simple and economical technological solutions involving
functionally graded materials m a y be based on a piece-wise distribution o f the properties
o f a composite.
In the present paper, the concept o f functionally graded materials is applied to the
problem o f maximizing the buckling load o f a composite plate subjected to a uniaxial
compression, as shown in Fig. 1, and reinforced by two types o f fibers. These two types
o f fibers differ in their stiffness and cost. The latter consideration dictates that the total
weight o f the fibers with superior properties must be limited. The o p t i m u m solution can
be achieved if the stiffer fibers are used in the layers oriented along the direction o f the
load (x-direction). Moreover, the buckling load can be increased, if the stiffness o f the
plate is higher close to the center, at the expense o f the stiffness near the edges. This means
that a functionally graded fiber system can be employed to maximize the buckling load.
The solution considered in the paper involves a symmetrically laminated plate where
all layers oriented at an angle to the load direction are reinforced by " o r d i n a r y " fibers,
while the layers oriented in the load direction include both the " o r d i n a r y " and stiffer
fibers. In addition, volume fractions o f the stiffer fibers vary across the width o f the plate
following a piece-wise distribution law. The constraint on the total cross-sectional area
(weight) o f the stiffer fibers emphasizes cost limitations involved in the design process.
Note that the concept o f hybrid plates has been discussed since the 1970s (Bunsell and
Harris, 1974; Aveston and Sillwood, 1976; Bradley and Harris, 1977; Zweben, 1977). In
particular, Aveston and Sillwood (1976) showed that the failure strain o f c a r b o n - g l a s s -
epoxy composites can be significantly enhanced due to the presence o f stiffer fibers.
Bradley and Harris illustrated that the fracture energy o f c a r b o n fiber-reinforced
tOE S/7-, 913
914 V. Birman

1 <

Nx 2 < N×
1 <

Fig. 1. Functionallygradedhybridcompositeplatewithpiece-wisedistributionof fibers.The con-

centration of fibers in region 2 is higherthan in region 1.

composites subjected to impact can be increased by 100% if steel wires are placed close to
the impacted face. Later studies of hybrid composites were published by Maksimov and
Plume (1980), Maksimov et al. (1984), Kochetkov (1987a, b) and Kochetkov and
Maksimov (1994). The last three papers cited above employed the self-consistent micro-
mechanical approach of Hill (1965) to derive elastic characteristics of a hybrid composite.
This approach limited the range of an accurate representation of hybrid composite
properties to a relatively small volume fraction of fibers. This was due to the nature of the
model where each fiber was considered as an isolated inclusion within an elastic medium
with averaged composite properties. It is emphasized that functionally graded hybrid
composites which promise the best utilization of the properties of stiffer fibers have not
been investigated. An exception is the paper of Bradley and Harris (1977) which does not
provide an analytical tool to treat the problem.

1. Micromechanics o f composite layer with two different types o f fibers
The problems of defining the properties of a composite material have been inten-
sively studied and a number of micromechanical models have been employed. In all these
models, the overall properties of a composite are defined as functions of the properties of
the fibers and matrix and their volume fractions. The presence of an interphase between
the fibers and the matrix can usually be included in the formulation. Mentioned here are
the generalized self-consistent scheme of Dvorak and Bahei-EI-Din (1979), the
Mori-Tanaka theory (1973), and the micromechanical theory of Aboudi that is often
referred to as the method of cells (Aboudi, 1982; Aboudi and Pindera, 1992).
The model used in the present paper is based on the formulation developed at the
NASA-Lewis Research Center (Chamis, 1983; Hopkins and Chamis, 1985) that follows
from the mechanics of materials. This approach has been successfully used for the studies
of polymer composites (Murthy et al., 1993), metal matrix composites (Murthy and
Chamis, 1993), and ceramic matrix composites (Mital et al., 1993). According to this
approach, sometimes called the multi-cell model, a unidirectional layer represents an
assembly of identical cells, each of them consisting of a fiber, an interphase (if any), and
the surrounding matrix. The properties of the layer are derived through a comparison of
the overall composite response to the response of the representative cell. The theory has
shown a good agreement with experiments and, notably, a comparison of existing
micromechanical methods, including the multi-cell model, illustrated a reasonably good
agreement between them (Bigelow et al., 1989; Noor and Shah, 1993).
In the present paper, the properties of a composite layer that includes two different
types of fibers and a polymeric matrix must be determined. Within each region of the
plate shown in Fig. 1, volume fractions of both systems of fibers in the layers oriented in
the x-direction are constant, say k~l and k~2 where i is the region number. Accordingly, the
properties can be determined for the layers within the corresponding region of the plate,
and, consequently, extensional and bending stiffnesses of a symmetrically laminated plate
are piece-wise functions of the y-coordinate.
Stability of functionally graded hybrid composite plates 915

The analysis is based on the following assumptions:

Both types of fibers and the matrix remain within a linear elastic range;
the fibers are transversely isotropic, and the matrix is isotropic;
- -both types of fibers have the same diameter;
the fibers and the matrix experience the same axial strain in the fiber direction;
- -all constituents experience the same transverse stress in the direction perpen-
dicular to the fibers;
- - the Poisson's effect can be neglected when a load is applied in the transverse
Note that the last three assumptions represent the foundation of the multi-cell model.
The presence of two different types of fibers requires an introduction of a different
cell which has little resemblance to the cells or representative volume elements used in the
models listed above. It is assumed that both systems of fibers are uniformly distributed
over each region. Then a representative cell or volume element with a unit side length can
be presented by the model in Fig. 2. Note that in each row a number of fibers of each type
is constant. The following geometric results can be useful for the subsequent analysis
(hereafter the superscript i identifying the plate region is omitted for brevity):

a = --~-D

2_ /kn + kn (1)
n = D ~1 -~

b = I - %/-kfl "1- kfz

where D is a fiber diameter, a is the height of each row shown in Fig. 2, n is the total
number of fibers in a row (or a number of rows in the cell), and b = 1 - na is the total
width of the horizontal or vertical strips of the matrix between the rows. Note that n given
by eqns (1) is a nondimensional number because the total area of fibers in a square cross-
section shown in Fig. 2 is kfl + kf2.
Now following the approach used in the multi-cell model, one can immediately
obtain the longitudinal modulus of the composite layer:

E l = E f l l k f l + Efl2kfl2 + E m k m (2)

where Efll and Ell 2 are longitudinal moduli of fibers, Em is the modulus of elasticity of the
matrix, and km is the matrix volume fraction. A similar expression can be obtained for the
Poisson's ratio

Vlt = Vlftlkfl + vfl2tkf2 + v m k m (3)

where vf~ and vm are the Poisson's ratios of the fibers and the matrix, respectively.

Fig. 2. Representative volume element of a hybrid composite material with two types of fibers.
Stiffer fibers are shaded (their distribution does not have to follow the pattern in the figure).
916 V. Birman
Transverse displacements of the rows with the width a shown in Fig. 2 can be
obtained by the assumption that the fibers and the matrix between the fibers work in
= Sfl ~fl + Sf2ef2 + SmEm (4)
where e denotes transverse strains, while Sn, sf2 and Sm are the total lengths of the fibers
and matrix sections within the row. The assumption that the transverse stress in the fibers
and in the matrix is identical, differentiation of eqn (4) with respect to this stress, and the
replacement of the derivatives of strain with respect to stress with inverses of the trans-
verse moduli yield:

Emx/kfl + kf2
E~ = (Em/Eftl)kfl + (Em/Eft2)kf2 + ~/kf I 4- kf2 (1 - ~ + kf2) (5)
where Eft 1 and Eft2 are transverse moduli of elasticity of the fibers. Obviously, the
modulus of elasticity in the strips of the matrix between the rows a is equal to that of the
Now, similar to the multi-cell model, consider the rows a and the strips of the matrix
between these rows. In this case, the requirement that a transverse force acting on the cell
must be equal to the sum of the forces in the rows and in the strips of the matrix yields:
E t = E t s a + EmS b (6)
where Et is a transverse modulus of the composite layer, Sa = na, and Sb = 1 -- ha.
The substitution of eqns (1) and (5) into eqn (6) yields

E t = Em[ 1 - x/kfx + kf2

kfl + kf2 ].
+ (Em/Eftl)kfl + (Em/Eft2)kf2 + ~/kfl + El2 (1 - x/kfl + kf2) J
The expression for the shear modulus Glt is similar to eqn (7) where G m and Glt2,
i.e. the shear moduli of the fibers, should replace Eft1 and Eft2, respectively, and the
modulus of the matrix Em must be changed to G m. In a particular case with a single type
of fiber the expressions presented above converge to the formulae of the multi-cell model.
As was shown by Noor and Shah (1993), four constants, i.e. El, Et, Glt and Vlt, evaluated
using this model are in excellent agreement with other analytical models as well as with the
results generated using a finite element method.
The expressions for the transverse shear modulus Gtt and the Poisson's ratio 1)tt are
not shown because these two parameters are not needed for evaluation of the reduced
stiffnesses of a layer in the state of plane stress. Note that this justifies the application of
the multi-cell model in the present problem since the transverse shear modulus and the
corresponding Poisson's ratio obtained by the multi-cell method are not in such good
agreement with experimental and finite element results as E l , Et, Glt and v~t (Noor and
Shah, 1993).
In conclusion, extensional and bending stiffnesses of a symmetric laminate can be
calculated using standard equations, i.e.
I h/2
{Aij , Dij } = Qij{1, z 2} dz (8)
where h is the thickness of the laminate, and Qk are transformed reduced stiffnesses of the
kth lamina, including the stiffnesses of the specially orthotropic layers with two different
types of fibers based on the properties evaluated above.

2. Solution of the buckling problem

Linear equations of equilibrium for a symmetrically laminated thin plate with the
stiffnesses which are piece-wise functions of the y-coordinate are uncoupled. This means
Stability of functionally graded hybrid composite plates 917
that equations of in-plane equilibrium are independent of the equation of equilibrium of
forces in the transverse direction. For a piece-wise distribution of bending stiffnesses, the
latter equation is:

Dll(Y)Wxxxx + 2[D12(Y) + 2966(y)]W, xxyy + D22(Y)Wvyyy + Nxwxx = 0 (9)

where w is a transverse deflection, and Nx denotes an applied stress resultant.
Consider now the solution within the ith region limited by Yi < Y < Yi+ 1. If the edges
x = 0 and x = a are simply supported, an exact solution has the form:
Wim = fire(Y) s i n - (10)

where m is a number of halfwaves in the instability mode, and a function fim(Y) is

f/m(Y) = ~ Ai~exp(sinvY). (11)
In eqn (11), Aiav(j = 1, 2) are constants of integration,

Simj = ± + ~1 4 - rim (12)

2(D~2+ 2 D ~ 6 ) ( - ~ ) 2
gim ---- 022
O~l(mlt/a)2-gx(_~_) z.
rim = D722

Obviously, the superscript i identifies the bending stiffnesses corresponding to the ith
The buckling load can be obtained from the set of continuity and boundary condi-
tions which include the load N x through the coefficients rim- The continuity conditions at
the boundary of the ith and (i + 1)th regions are w i = Wi+l and Wry = Wi.ry. The
boundary conditions at y = 0 and y = b can easily be formulated for such cases as simple
support, clamping, free edges, etc. The set of continuity and boundary equations is linear
and homogeneous with respect to constants of integration. The nonzero requirement to
the solution yields the equation for a critical value of N~.
The method of generating an exact solution discussed in the previous paragraph
involves significant numerical difficulties, particularly if the number of regions is large.
A simple, yet accurate, solution can be obtained by the Galerkin method. In particular,
if the edges y = 0 and y = b are simply supported,
m n x . nny
w(m, n) = Cmn sin sm - - (14)
a b
where Cmn is a constant that represents a good approximation of the buckling mode. Note
that for the plates with laminations used in practical applications and a/b > 1 there is
only one halfwave in the y-direction in the mode shape of instability, i.e. n = 1.
The substitution of eqn (14) into eqn (9) and the Galerkin procedure yield the follow-
ing expression for the critical load:

N~r(m, n) = ~ ~ Ki(m, n)~'in(Y) (15)

D i (m/rX~4 + 2(D~2 + i /mn\Z/nn\Z i I/I17~\4
gi(m'n) = 11~ a / 2066)!k---a-) ~ T ) + O22~kT )
2 t" Yi+ 1 " 2 ]17~y .
q/in(Y) = b dy, sin --if- oy.
918 v. Birman
Note that in the optimization problem solution (15) is typically subject to certain
constraints. For example, if the volume of the stiffer fibers is limited due to cost require-
ments, the constraint condition can be given in the form

'Vfl n i -<- p
I.(0,t (17)

where Ai is the cross-sectional area of the ith region, k~) is the volume fraction of
the stiffer fibers in this region, and P is the maximum allowable area of the fibers of this

The following examples illustrate the potential of functionally graded hybrid compo-
sites in enhancement of static stability of plates. The materials considered in the examples
are presented in Table 1. S-glass fibers are considered as "ordinary" fibers, while three
types of stiffer fibers include silicon carbide, boron and nicalon. The plates considered in
the examples were specially orthotropic with the direction of fibers colinear with the load
direction (x-axis). The width and the thickness of the plates were 10 in and 0.2 in,
respectively. The plates were subdivided into three regions, as shown in Fig. 1. The
volume fraction of stiffer fibers in region 1 was kept constant, k~ ) = 0.1, while this
volume fraction in the central region 2 varied from 0.1 to 0.65. The volume fraction of the
matrix was equal to 0.35 throughout the entire plate.
The central region 2 was symmetrically located with respect to the central axis of the
plate (y = b/2). The width of the central region, denoted bc, was taken equal to b/3, if
not indicated otherwise.

Table I. Properties of fibers and matrix used in numerical examples

Properties Matrix
of material S-glass Silicon carbide Boron Nicalon LY 558 (epoxy)

E (Msi) 12.40 62.00 58.00 24.00 0.76

v 0.20 0.30 0.20 0.23 0.354
Source Chamis Lee and Chamis Noor and Noor and
(1983) Murthy (1992) (1983) Shah (1993) Shah (1993)





~ . 1200


400 Iltltl(ll Itttllllllllttttll II [[lltttltllltltllll'l ttltllt Itll ~t ~ 1 1 1 1 1 1

0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70

kf, (z)
Fig. 3. Effect of volume fraction of stiffer(siliconcarbide) fibersin the centralregion of the plate
on the buckling load. The numbers by the curves indicate the aspect ratios (A) of the plates.
Stability of functionally graded hybrid composite plates 919

3000 - /






500 i, , l l l ~ p , l l , l l l t l , l l l r q , l , l , l l l L i i ,,,,qllllqlll,,llrll~l,,,,lllrl,ll,,i
0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
Fig. 4. Effect of the volume fraction of the stiffer (silicon carbide) fibers and the width of the
central region on the buckling load of a square plate. Curve 1: bc/b = 1/2; curve 2: bc/b = 1/3;
curve 3: bc/b = 1/5.

The effect of the volume fraction of the stiffer fibers on the buckling loads is
illustrated in Fig. 3 for plates with the aspect ratios ;t = a/b equal to 1, 2 and 3. The mode
shapes of buckling included one halfwave in both x- and y-directions for the plates with
2t = 1 and 2, while the plate with 2 = 3 had two halfwaves in the x-direction (m = 2).
The results presented in Fig. 3 illustrate that an introduction of functionally graded stiffer
fibers can be an effective tool in prevention of buckling.
The width of the central region is an important factor affecting stability of plates.
This is illustrated in Figs 4 and 5 for aspect ratios equal to 1 and 3, respectively. In both
figures, an expansion of the central region results in a significant increase in the buckling
load. Note that the buckling mode shapes for the plates considered in Figs 4 and 5
included one halfwave in both directions (square plate, Fig. 4) and rn = 2, n = 1 for the
plate with 2 = 3 (Fig. 5).

2000 -

1800 /

/ /

1/ j
/ f-"

<,.~1400 -

o,?.,M 1200 -

1000 -

800 ~Jlllrllll,t~JJlrJrlllJlllrJllllE,ill~ll~lll,lrllr:r~rlll~lllE~ll]E~ E
0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 060 0.70
k n (z)

Fig. 5. Effect of the volume fraction of the stiffer (silicon carbide) fibers and the width of the
central region on the buckling load of a plate with 2 = 3. Curve h bc/b = 1/2; curve 2:
bc/b = 1/3; curve 3: bc/b = 1/5.
920 V. Birman






0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
Fig. 6. Buckling loads of functionally graded hybrid composite plates with various stiffer fibers.
= 2; b¢/b = I/3. Curves 1, 2 and 3 correspond to silicon carbide, boron and nicalon fibers,
respectively. Note the change in the buckling mode shape from m = 1 to m = 2 for the plate with
nicalon fibers.

Buckling loads obtained using three types of stiffer fibers are compared in Fig. 6.
As follows from this figure, the tendency of increasing the buckling load as a result of
a larger volume fraction of stiffer fibers in the central region is present in all cases.
However, larger increases occur in the plates reinforced by silicon carbide fibers. The
explanation can be found in Table 1 which illustrates that these fibers have the highest
stiffness. Boron fibers yield results close to those obtained for silicon carbide fibers
because the difference between their stiffnesses is small. Stability of plates with nicalon
fibers which have a relatively inferior stiffness lags behind that for both silicon carbide
and boron fiber-reinforced plates. The number of halfwaves in the x-direction for silicon
carbide and boron fiber-reinforced plates was equal to 1. In nicalon-reinforced plates,
the mode shape of instability changed as a result of variation of the volume fraction
of stiffer fibers. This illustrates that changes of the mode shape of buckling should
be considered when varying the volume fractions of fibers in functionally graded


This paper presents a solution to the buckling problem of hybrid composite plates
with functionally graded stiffer fibers. The solution is obtained for the case where stiffer
fibers are embedded within the laminae which are oriented in the load direction. The
properties of such laminae are derived using the multi-cell model of Chamis.
Numerical examples are presented for specially orthotropic plates with a piece-wise
distribution of stiffer fibers. The results obtained for three different types of stiffer fibers
illustrate that buckling loads can be significantly increased as a result of a piece-wise re-
inforcement. Predictably, the benefits increase with the stiffness of the fibers.
In the case where the central region of the plate has a higher concentration of the
stiffer fibers, an increase in the width of this region results in a significant enhancement
of stability. Although the aspect ratio of the plate has a quantitative effect on the buckling
load, the general conclusions are not affected.
Further research is needed to illustrate advantages of functionally graded hybrid
composites and functionally graded materials, in general. The results of this research
should convince industry that it can benefit from using these materials in practical
Stability of functionally graded hybrid composite plates 921

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