Section: Application Domains

Materials engineering

Because of their high strength and low weight, ceramic-matrix composite materials (CMCs) are the focus of active research for aerospace and energy applications involving high temperatures, either military or civil. Though based on brittle ceramic components, these composites are not brittle due to the use of a fibre/matrix interphase that preserves the fibres from cracks appearing in the matrix. Recent developments aim at implementing also in civil aero engines a specific class of Ceramic Matrix Composite materials (CMCs) that show a self-healing behaviour. Self-healing consists in filling cracks appearing in the material with a dense fluid formed in-situ by oxidation of part of the matrix components. Self-healing (SH) CMCs are composed of a complex three-dimensional topology of woven fabrics containing fibre bundles immersed in a matrix coating of different phases. The oxide seal protects the fibres which are sensitive to oxidation, thus delaying failure. The obtained lifetimes reach hundreds of thousands of hours [121].

The behaviour of a fibre bundle is actually extremely variable, as the oxidation reactions generating the self-healing mechanism have kinetics strongly dependent on temperature and composition. In particular, the lifetime of SH-CMCs depends on: (i) temperature and composition of the surrounding atmosphere; (ii) composition and topology of the matrix layers; (iii) the competition of the multidimensional diffusion/oxidation/volatilization processes; (iv) the multidimensional flow of the oxide in the crack; (v) the inner topology of fibre bundles; (vi) the distribution of critical defects in the fibres. Unfortunately, experimental investigations on the full materials are too long (they can last years) and their output too qualitative (the coupled effects can only be observed a-posteriori on a broken sample). Modelling is thus essential to study and to design SH-CMCs.

In collaboration wit the LCTS laboratory (a joint CNRS-CEA-SAFRAN-Bordeaux University lab devoted to the study of thermo-structural materials in Bordeaux), we are developing a multi-scale model in which a structural mechanics solver is coupled with a closure model for the crack physico chemistry. This model is obtained as a multi-dimensional asymptotic crack averaged approximation fo the transport equations (Fick's laws) with chemical reactions sources, plus a potential model for the flow of oxide [83], [88], [119]. We have demonstrated the potential of this model in showing the importance of taking into account the multi-dimensional topology of a fibre bundle (distribution of fibres) in the rupture mechanism. This means that the 0-dimensional model used in most of the studies (se e.g. [79]) will underestimate appreciably the lifetime of the material. Based on these recent advances, we will further pursue the development of multi-scale multi-dimensional asymptotic closure models for the parametric design of self healing CMCs. Our objectives are to provide: (i) new, non-linear multi-dimensional mathematical model of CMCs, in which the physico-chemistry of the self-healing process is more strongly coupled to the two-phase (liquid gas) hydro-dynamics of the healing oxide ; (ii) a model to represent and couple crack networks ; (iii) a robust and efficient coupling with the structural mechanics code ; (iv) validate this platform with experimental data obtained at the LCTS laboratory. The final objective is to set up a multi-scale platform for the robust prediction of lifetime of SH-CMCs, which will be a helpful tool for the tailoring of the next generation of these materials.