Time-Lapse Helical X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) Study of Tensile Fatigue Damage Formation in Composites for Wind Turbine Blades

Ying Wang, Lars Pilgaard Mikkelsen, Grzegorz Pyka, Philip J. Withers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Understanding the fatigue damage mechanisms in composite materials is of great importance in the wind turbine industry because of the very large number of loading cycles rotor blades undergo during their service life. In this paper, the fatigue damage mechanisms of a non-crimp unidirectional (UD) glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) used in wind turbine blades are characterised by time-lapse ex-situ helical X-ray computed tomography (CT) at different stages through its fatigue life. Our observations validate the hypothesis that off-axis cracking in secondary oriented fibre bundles, the so-called backing bundles, are directly related to fibre fractures in the UD bundles. Using helical X-ray CT we are able to follow the fatigue damage evolution in the composite over a length of 20 mm in the UD fibre direction using a voxel size of (2.75 µm)³. A staining approach was used to enhance the detectability of the narrow off-axis matrix and interface cracks, partly closed fibre fractures and thin longitudinal splits. Instead of being evenly distributed, fibre fractures in the UD bundles nucleate and propagate locally where backing bundles cross-over, or where stitching threads cross-over. In addition, UD fibre fractures can also be initiated by the presence of extensive debonding and longitudinal splitting, which were found to develop from debonding of the stitching threads near surface. The splits lower the lateral constraint of the originally closely packed UD fibres, which could potentially make the composite susceptible to compressive loads as well as the environment in service. The results here indicate that further research into the better design of the positioning of stitching threads, and backing fibre cross-over regions is required, as well as new approaches to control the positions of UD fibres.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2340
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Contrast agent
  • Fibre break
  • Fibre tows
  • Helical CT
  • High cycle fatigue (HCF)

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