Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Faysal Kolkailah


This thesis will present the experimental and numerical analysis of composite sandwich structures under monotonic and fatigue loading. The sandwich skins were made of fiberglass and the core used was a closed cell PVC foam. Initial delaminations were introduced into the sandwich structures during manufacturing to see the effect of delamination size on the ultimate strength and monotonic fracture. Fiberglass rods, called shear keys, added to the foam core to determine whether or not they increased the strength of the test specimens. Furthermore, shear key locations were also varied and their effects noted. The fixed rate static behavior for all of the above cases listed were determined. The fatigue life and behavior were determined for sandwich structures with no initial delamination, 0.5 inch initial delamination, and 0.5 inch initial delamination with a shear key 0 inch from the delamination depth. The fatigue specimens were tested at various percentages of the ultimate monotonic failure loads to determine the fatigue life. A static numerical analysis was performed using Abaqus/CAE 6.7.1 to observe at the monotonic behavior of the test specimens with no initial delamination and with 0.5 inch initial delamination. The sandwich structures with an initial delamination and/or a shear key in the foam core experienced over a 70% reduction in the ultimate monotonic failure load. The two delamination lengths had no significant effect on the ultimate monotonic failure load, but the presence of an initial delamination corresponded to a material response dominated by plastic behavior. The experimental testing also showed that the location of the shear key in the sandwich structure had little effect on the monotonic strength, but moving the shear keys further away from the back edge of the delamination caused a reduction in strength. The monotonic testing determined that composite sandwich structures containing shear keys had approximately a 7% reduction in the monotonic failure load of test specimens with an initial delamination. Numerical analysis results matched the ultimate failure loads within 5% for the test specimens with a 0.5 inch an initial delamination and within 15% for the test specimens with no initial delamination. The fatigue testing showed that sandwich structures containing shear keys had life reduction of approximately 33%. Preliminary experiments involved with rotating the shear keys 90° showed increased ultimate monotonic failure loads of the composite sandwich structures by as much as 30%. Future funding and research would be necessary to verify the increased structural performance of the newly oriented shear keys.