On the implosion of underwater composite shells



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The aim of this study was to investigate the dynamic collapse of composite shells in a constant external pressure water environment that is representative of a naval underwater structure. Laminated carbon/epoxy composite shells with diameters of 1.735 in., wall thickness of 0.041 in, length-to-diameter ratios ranging for 2.8 to 12 and [55/-55/(90)3/-55/55] layup were collapsed in a custom pressure testing facility that provided a constant pressure water environment. Buckling was sudden, dynamic, led to failure and fragmentation of the shells; the whole event lasted only a couple of ms. The dynamic collapse of the shells was recorded using high-speed digital imaging and dynamic pressure sensors synchronized with the camera were used to monitor the emanating pressure waves. All shells buckled in mode 2 at pressure levels predicted by models adopted. Collapse led to a localization zone in the central section of the shells, approximately spanning on a 4D length for the longer ones, and shorter for the shorter shells. A single axial crack developed in the collapsing section, which propagated 2 to 4 diameters depending on the length of the specimen. The axial crack was located on the extrados for long shells, and on the intrados for shorter ones. Helical cracks initiated from the tips of the axial crack, propagated outwards, and were responsible for the collapse and fragmentation of the two outer sections. The receding walls of the central localizing zone caused a dynamic drop in pressure that lasted until the inward motion was arrested by contact. This was followed by a sharp, short duration positive pressure pulse associated with an outward expansion wave. The pressure pulse varied to some degree around the circumference with the highest peak occurring opposite the initial crack. The final result of such dynamic events was catastrophic failure and fragmentation of the shell into small shreds.