Local structural effects in fiber-reinforced polymer web-core sandwich structures

Glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) pultruded decks and sandwich panels currently represent two of the most extensive applications of FRP materials for load-bearing structural components in the bridge and building domains. Based on the state of the art, the global structural behavior of both systems has been fairly well investigated. Nonetheless, local effects governing in most cases the global behavior have been barely addressed. Selected local structural effects relevant to the global structural performance of pultruded GFRP bridge decks and GFRP-foam web-core sandwich structures are therefore investigated in this research. The effect of the core geometry of pultruded GFRP decks on the system’s behavior in its transverse-to-pultrusion direction was experimentally investigated. The experimental work conducted on two deck designs with trapezoidal- and triangular-cell cross sections showed that the transverse structural performance depends on the cell geometry. Furthermore, the systems’ transverse bending and in-plane shear stiffness were evaluated and the results indicated that a triangular core causes a more pronounced bi-directional behavior of the deck when it is subjected to concentrated loads. The local behavior of the web-flange junctions (WFJs) of the pultruded deck with trapezoidal cells was experimentally investigated regarding energy dissipation capacity and recovery subsequent to unloading. The experimental responses reported for two junction types with similar geometry and fiber architecture but different initial imperfections demonstrated that dissimilar imperfections could significantly affect WFJ behavior and change it from brittle to ductile. The time-dependent recovery and energy dissipation mechanisms of the WFJs exhibiting a ductile response were evaluated; the viscoelastic effects were found to be small in both cases. The rotational behavior of all WFJ types present in the trapezoidal-core deck was characterized. An experimental procedure based on three-point bending and cantilever experiments conducted on the web elements was developed and used for this purpose. The rotational stiffness, strength and failure modes of the WFJs differed depending on the web type, location of the WFJ within the deck profile, existing initial imperfections and direction of the applied bending moment. Numerical simulations of the full-scale deck were performed to demonstrate the validity of the experimental moment-rotation (M-φ) relationships and simplified M-φ curves provided. The effects of creep on the load-bearing behavior of GFRP-foam web-core sandwich structures were investigated. A study of the creep behavior of polyurethane (PUR) foams was conducted and showed that in order to assess the long-term structural performance of the sandwich system, the foam anisotropy, density and loading type should be considered. The creep behavior of web-core sandwich panels, and specifically the structural aspects affected by the web-core interaction, were analyzed using the GFRP-PUR sandwich roof of the Novartis Campus Main Gate Building as case study and currently available design guidelines. The resulting sandwich designs depended on the applied design recommendations. Finally, provisions for the cross-sectional design of the hybrid web-core were proposed.


  • Thesis submitted - Forthcoming publication

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