Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Michael R. Kessler


Over the past 50 years, the industrial development and applications for polymers and polymer composites has become expansive. However, as with any young technology, the techniques for predicting material damage and resolving material failure are in need of continued development and refinement. This thesis work takes two approaches to polymer damage mitigation--material lifetime prediction and spontaneous damage repair through self-healing while incorporating bio-renewable feedstock. First, material lifetime prediction offers the benefit of identifying and isolating material failures before the effects of damage results in catastrophic failure. Second, self-healing provides a systematic approach to repairing damaged polymer composites, specifically in applications where a hands-on approach or removing the part from service are not feasible.

With regard to lifetime prediction, we investigated three specific polymeric materials--polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), poly(ethylene-alt-tetrafluoroethylene) (ETFE), and Kapton. All three have been utilized extensively in the aerospace field as a wire insulation coating. Because of the vast amount of electrical wiring used in aerospace constructions and the potential for electrical and thermal failure, this work develops mathematical models for both the thermal degradation kinetics as well as a lifetime prediction model for electrothermal breakdown. Isoconversional kinetic methods, which plot activation energy as a function of the extent of degradation, present insight into the development each kinetic model. The models for PTFE, ETFE, and Kapton are one step, consecutive three-step, and competitive and consecutive five-step respectively. Statistical analysis shows that an nth order autocatalytic reaction best defined the reaction kinetics for each polymer's degradation.

Self-healing polymers arrest crack propagation through the use of an imbedded adhesive that reacts when cracks form. This form of damage mitigation focuses on repairing damage before the damage causes a failure in the polymer's function. In this work, the healing agent (adhesive) is developed using bio-renewable oils instead of solely relying on petroleum based feedstocks. Several bio-renewable thermosetting polymers were successfully prepared from tung oil through cationic polymerization for the use as the healing agent in self-healing microencapsulated applications. Modifications to both the monomers in the resin and the catalyst for polymerization were made and the subsequent changes to mechanical, thermal, and structural properties were identified. Furthermore, compressive lap shear testing was used to confirm that the adhesive properties would be beneficial for self-healing applications. Finally, scanning electron microscopy of the crack plane was used to study the fracture mechanism of the crack.

Copyright Owner

Peter Raymond Hondred



File Format


File Size

200 pages