Processing Effects on Formation of Microvoids and Hydraulic Fluid Absorption of Quartz/BMI Laminates


Bismaleimide (BMI) resin with Quartz (AQ581) fiber reinforcement is desirable for systems requiring a high glass transition temperature, low dielectric properties, and high laminate mechanical properties. These properties make quartz/BMI an ideal composite material for complex aerospace structures, and are currently being used in various aircraft engine cowlings and radomes. In addition to moisture absorption, quartz/BMI composite laminates are often exposed to different types of hydraulic fluid contaminants, which may lead to anomalous absorption behavior over the service life of the composite structure. Variations in laminate processing conditions, such as prepreg preconditioning and fabrication cure pressure, can have a significant effect on microstructural features of fiber-reinforced composites. Microstructural features, such as fiber volume fraction and void content, can influence mechanical properties and long term absorption of moisture or other liquid contaminants.

In this paper, the process-induced microstructure and hydraulic fluid absorption behavior of quartz/BMI laminates are presented. The laminates are fabricated from preconditioned prepregs and cured at different pressures to generate different levels of microvoids, while keeping the fiber volume fraction constant. Location, size and morphology of microvoids are investigated via SEM images obtained from laminates cured at different processing conditions. Composite samples were prepared and fully-immersed in hydraulic fluid at room temperature, and were not subjected to any prior degradation. The laminate samples immersed in hydraulic fluid exhibited clear non-Fickian absorption behavior, which was successfully predicted by the one-dimensional Hindered Diffusion Model (HDM). The degree of non-Fickian absorption behavior, or hindrance coefficient (μ), ranged from 0.30 to 0.72. Model prediction indicates that as the fabrication pressure increased, the maximum fluid content (M) decreased considerably. Additionally, a reduction in maximum fluid content was observed when lower relative humidity environments were used for prepreg preconditioning. A discernable difference was not observed in the absorption dynamics when the prepregs were preconditioned at greater than 70% relative humidity.

Experimental Procedure

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