The present research was undertaken to evaluate the effects of mechanical constraint on the response of polymer matrix composites during thermal cycling. Analytical and experimental techniques were used to characterize the response of carbon-fiber-reinforced cyanate ester and bismaleimide composites. Cross-ply laminates were subjected to thermal cycles from 24 to 177°C in the unconstrained, fully constrained, and overconstrained conditions. Laminate response, damage mechanisms, and residual compressive properties were characterized for each material and degree of constraint. The results of this research indicate that the level of constraint can have a significant effect on the response of polymer matrix composites during thermal cycling. However, longer-term testing is required to determine if the observed changes in response will ultimately affect the final failure mode and fatigue endurance of the materials.
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