Macro-scale testing and micromechanics modeling of fracture behaviors for boron carbide composites with hierarchical microstructures

Jingyao Dai, Evan J. Pineda, Brett A. Bednarcyk, Jogender Singh, Namiko Yamamoto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


With a unique combination of properties including high hardness, low density, wear and corrosion resistance, thermal stability, high neutron absorption, and semi-conductivity, boron carbide (B4C) is a candidate material for various engineering applications that involve extreme environment. The current applications of boron carbide, however, are limited by its intrinsic brittleness due to its strong covalent bonding. To toughen boron carbide, in this work hierarchical microstructure designs was used to provide multiple toughening mechanisms including crack deflection/bridging, micro-crack toughening, etc. Using field assisted sintering, B4C composites with hierarchical microstructure features including graphite platelets, micron and sub-micron sized TiB2 reinforcements were fabricated. The fracture toughness of fabricated B4C composites were previously measured at micro-scale using micro-indentation followed by post-testing microstructure inspection. However, questions including whether the fracture toughness enhancement measured at microscale can translate to macro-scale mechanical properties, and what are the fundamental mechanisms behind observed fracture toughness enhancement, remain to be answered. In this study, the fabricated B4C composites were tested using standardized four-point bending method to obtain fracture toughness at macro-scale. In addition, micromechanics modeling was conducted using MAC/GMC code and crack-band model to study the effect of residual stress and weak interphases on fracture behaviors of B4C composites reinforced with TiB2 particles. Through standardized four-point bending tests, fracture toughness enhancements up to 2.85, 3.32, and 3.65 MPa∙m1/2 (from 2.38 MPa∙m1/2) were achieved for B4C composites with graphite platelets addition (micro/nano B4C), with TiB2 formation (micro B4C-TiB2), and with both graphite and TiB2 addition (micro/nano B4C-TiB2) respectively. Micromechanics modeling indicated that introduction of thermal residual stress and weak interphases caused enhanced micro-cracking behavior and resulted in the observed fracture toughness enhancement. These results furthered understanding about the mechanical behaviors at macro-scale and the mechanisms behind observed fracture toughness enhancement for B4C composites with hierarchical microstructures and can provide reference data for the future design of B4C composites with optimized microstructures for further fracture toughness enhancement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Scitech 2021 Forum
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781624106095
StatePublished - 2021
EventAIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition, AIAA SciTech Forum 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jan 11 2021Jan 15 2021

Publication series

NameAIAA Scitech 2021 Forum


ConferenceAIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition, AIAA SciTech Forum 2021
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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