Design Fiber Composite Materials Now

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Fiber-reinforced composites of a polymer matrix offer the advantage of being lightweight and simultaneously showing extraordinary strength. Thus, composites – reinforced with fiberglass, carbon, or synthetic fibers – deliver high performance. Therefore, the interest of industries like aerospace, automotive, marine, and construction in such material is growing. In addition, sporting applications – such as golf clubs, tennis rackets, or racing bikes – commonly employ composite materials, to impart flexural properties in one load direction, while maintaining a lightweight and tough material.

For scientists and engineers who focus on developing new composites, it is critical to be able to visualize and measure key features. They look into the internal structure of fiber-reinforced polymers that greatly affect the strength and function and want to learn even more about the material and improve it to reach its full potential.

Microscopy Solutions for Fiber Composite Materials

What if you could have easy access to the quantitative understanding of microstructural evolution for samples ranging from very small to very large? - And understand reliability and failure mechanisms in situ? Benefit from exploring the manufacturing techniques through 3D characterization of the polymers’ microstructure in depth. Understand the reliability and failure mechanisms of composites by applying microscopy solutions.

  • Processing: Observe structures non-destructively with high resolution and contrast. Visualize and quantify voids, crystallographic defects, inclusions, and damage locations. Image following tension or shear and observe microstructural changes. Cut away material virtually to detect failure mechanisms across multiple length scales. Study the methods and processes used to produce novel fiber composite materials with X-ray Microscopy (XRM) or Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).
  • Structure: Observe and quantify the produced microstructures in situ with non-destructive X-ray Microscopy, or investigate structure-property relationships with multi-modal microscopy techniques, from Light Microscopy and X-ray Microscopy to Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM), combined with the help of correlative Software Solutions.
  • Properties and Performance: Investigate or predict how a novel fiber composite material, like a woven ceramic matrix composite, will perform in real world conditions by conducting multi-scale in situ imaging with X-ray Microscopy.

Study The Processing of Fiber Composites

With X-ray Microscopy or Scanning Electron Microscopy

When you want to characterize your composite material comprehensively, you will need to perform in situ experiments and also investigate details at high magnifications. Benefit from imaging a sample before and after the application of tension or shear and add high resolution in an electron microscope to complement your analysis.

Segmented 3D Image of a Fiber Composite

The image shows green fibers (E-glass), orange fibers (polypropylene), and white spheres (voids).
The image shows green fibers (E-glass), orange fibers (polypropylene), and white spheres (voids). The analysis indicated that E-glass fibers are clustered together and randomly distributed, which may influence the strength of the material, and that there are many unconsolidated polypropylene fibers left in the sample. Courtesy of: P. Milani, University of British Columbia, CA.
  • Observe resulting changes in the microstructure of these materials and make sure you track reliability and understand failure. Introduce non-destructive, high resolution 3D microstructural analysis of relatively large samples into your lab and use X-ray microscopy
  • Acquire high contrast, high resolution X-ray images of polymer fiber composites, preserving the sample so that it may then be studied with additional methods such as dynamic mechanical analysis and mechanical shear tests.
  • Use Scanning Electron Microscopy additionally to analyze fiber-based composites, for example in aerospace applications, like wing of a lightweight glider. Apply low vacuum and use specific detectors to achieve highly resolved, artifact-free imaging even when dealing with charging-prone specimens.

Imaging the Wing of a Lightweight Glider with SEM

Fiber-based composite used in aerospace applications, in this case the wing of a lightweight glider.
Fiber-based composite used in aerospace applications, in this case the wing of a lightweight glider. This typical non-conductive specimen is prone to charging when imaged at high vacuum.
Here, low vacuum, a specially tailored detector and a fairly low acceleration voltage were used, resulting in artifact-free, high resolution SEM imagery.
Here, low vacuum, a specially tailored detector and a fairly low acceleration voltage were used, resulting in artifact-free, high resolution SEM imagery.

Application Note

Non-destructive 3D Quantification of Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composite Materials

Click below to read the application note.

Observe and Quantify the Structure of Fiber Composites

With Light Microscopy, X-ray Microscopy, Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy and Software Solutions

Imagine you could do without the iterative loop between design, testing, and property observation when designing materials? Creating structural materials requires you to understand damage initiation and failure mechanisms in structural components. Failures often nucleate inside the bulk, are unobservable until fracture is reached, occur on the microscopic scale, and can exhibit complex 3D characteristics. And as the nucleation processes are critical for engineering against failure, traditional bulk testing methods prove to be insufficient.

Mitigate these challenges in characterization and move towards microscopy as a complementary technique to bulk mechanical testing. Benefit from introducing different microscopes in a multi-modal workflow as a viable digital material testing approach.

  • Start the workflow with a light microscope which conforms to standard testing approaches. Clearly distinguish the reinforcing fibers from the matrix. Observe small defects early with this technique.
  • Employ a 3D X-ray microscopy as a second step. Examine internal structural damage of a carbon fiber-reinforced composite across multiple length scales, for example cracks in the material after being subjected to load. Extend the optical 2D imaging to 3D and ensure that the same region of interest (ROI) will be imaged to keep the datasets in the appropriate context. Use a multi-scale workflow with large field of view scanning at low resolution to guide the acquisition of subsequent higher resolution scans at targeted ROIs. Performing the workflow in a non-destructive fashion enables you to gain a better understanding of the microscale damage mechanisms that occur at very specific locations. And maintain the context of the larger, macroscale sample simultaneously.
  • Finally, capture the finest length scale of information and find out the localized composition using a Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB-SEM) to prepare and image your specimen further. With the help of correlative software, the FIB-SEM can be aligned to the same ROI as imaged by the optical and X-ray techniques. Retain the context of all data with each other.

Sub-micron Imaging to Highlight Cracks and Voids

Correlative microscopy has been effectively used to generate a multi-scale model of a carbon fiber composite material.
Correlative microscopy has been effectively used to generate a multi-scale model of a carbon fiber composite material. Optical microscopy provided fast access to microstructural data. Correlating these results to those from X-ray microscopy allowed a 3D model of the microstructure. With the compositional information provided by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, an accurate virtual depiction of the material was produced, which served as input into the simulation routine for material property predictions.

Application Note

Investigating Structure-property Relationships in a Carbon-fiber Composite

Click here to read the application note.

Investigate the Properties and Performance of Fiber Composites

With X-ray Microscopy

Find out how materials researchers all over the world are working every day to improve our understanding of fiber composite materials. In this area, there has been a wide range of publications investigating the properties and performance of fiber composite materials with X-ray microscopy techniques.

Non-destructive 3D Imaging of Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC)

Even in this specific research field, the spectrum of research interests is remarkably wide. On one hand, there is a wide range of material types studied, namely:

  • Fracture-Resistant Biomimetic Silicon Carbide Composites 
  • Non-Crimp Fabric Reinforced Polyester Composite

On the other hand, the studies focus on many different characteristics:

  • 3D-printed structures
  • Hygrothermal aging and structural damage.

Reference List: Fiber Composites XRM Applications




Analytical study on the 3D-printed structure and mechanical properties of basalt fiber-reinforced PLA composites using X-ray microscopy

Composites Science and Technology

May 19

Tailored fibre placement of commingled carbon-thermoplastic fibres for notch-insensitive composites

Composite Structures

April 19

Hygrothermal aging and structural damage of a jute/poly (lactic acid)(PLA) composite observed by X-ray tomography

Composites Science and Technology

March 19

On the significant enhancement in the performance properties of PAEK composite by inclusion of a small amount of nano-mica particles

Tribology International

March 19

Evolution of kink bands in a notched unidirectional carbon fibre-epoxy composite under four-point bending

Composites Science and Technology

January 19

Examination of a small radius of curvature composite notch with a novel chevron feature to improve damage tolerance

Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing

January 19

Strong, Fracture-Resistant Biomimetic Silicon Carbide Composites with Laminated Interwoven Nano-Architectures Inspired by the Crustacean Exoskeleton

ACS Applied Nano Materials

January 19

Dual-energy X-ray computed tomography for void detection in fiber-reinforced composites

Journal of Composite Materials

January 19

Mean field homogenization schemes for short fiber reinforced thermoplastics based on real microstructural information

Proceeding in Applied Mathematics and Mechanics

December 18

Stochastic fracture of additively manufactured porous composites

Scientific Reports

October 18

Multiscale microstructural characterization of particulate-reinforced composite with non-destructive X-ray micro- and nanotomography

Composite Structures

June 18

Uncovering the fatigue damage initiation and progression in uni-directional non-crimp fabric reinforced polyester composite

Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing

March 18

Damage tolerance of carbon-carbon composites in aerospace application


January 18

Microscopy Solutions for Fiber Composite Materials

Discover the ZEISS Product and Software Portfolio

Light Microscopy (LM)

ZEISS Axio Imager, Axio Lab.A1, Axioscope, Axio Zoom.V16

Investigate Fiber Composite Materials with Light Microscopy

Light Microscope, ZEISS Axio Imager 2 for Materials Research

ZEISS Axio Imager 2

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ZEISS Axio Lab.A1

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ZEISS Axioscope

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ZEISS Axio Zoom.V16

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X-ray Microscopy (XRM)

ZEISS Xradia 600-series Versa, Xradia 800 Ultra Family

Investigate Fiber Composite Materials with X-ray Microscopy

X-ray Microscope, ZEISS Xradia 620 Versa

ZEISS Xradia 600-series Versa

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ZEISS Xradia Ultra Family

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Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)


Investigate Fiber Composite Materials with Scanning Electron Microscopy

Scanning Electron Microscope, ZEISS EVO 15


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Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM)

ZEISS Crossbeam Family

Investigate Fiber Composite Materials with Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy

Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy, ZEISS Crossbeam 550

ZEISS Crossbeam Family

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Software Solutions / Multi-modal Microscopy

ZEISS ZEN Core Modules, ZEN Connect, Atlas 5

Investigate Fiber Composite Materials with Software Solutions for Multi-modal Microscopy

Software Solutions, ZEISS ZEN Core Modules

ZEISS ZEN Core Modules

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ZEISS Atlas 5

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Questions? Get In Touch With Us.

Speak to our microscopy experts for fiber composites.

Get in touch with us to find out more about the benefits of ZEISS Microscopy Solutions for your fiber composite materials research, book a demo at our customer center, or get a quote. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

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