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Numerical Evaluation of Mode I Stress Intensity Factor as a Function of Material Orientation for BX-265 Foam Insulation Material

[+] Author Affiliations
Erik Knudsen, Nagaraj K. Arakere

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Paper No. GT2006-90376, pp. 941-948; 8 pages
  • ASME Turbo Expo 2006: Power for Land, Sea, and Air
  • Volume 4: Cycle Innovations; Electric Power; Industrial and Cogeneration; Manufacturing Materials and Metallurgy
  • Barcelona, Spain, May 8–11, 2006
  • Conference Sponsors: International Gas Turbine Institute
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4239-8
  • Copyright © 2006 by ASME


Foam, a cellular material, is found all around us. Bone and cork are examples of biological cell materials. Many forms of man-made foam have found practical applications as insulating materials. NASA uses the BX-265 foam insulation material on the external tank (ET) for the Space Shuttle. This is a type of Spray-on Foam Insulation (SOFI), similar to the material used to insulate attics in residential construction. This foam material is a good insulator and is very lightweight, making it suitable for space applications. Breakup of segments of this foam insulation on the shuttle ET impacting the shuttle thermal protection tiles during liftoff is believed to have caused the space shuttle Columbia failure during re-entry. NASA engineers are very interested in understanding the processes that govern the breakup/fracture of this complex material from the shuttle ET. The foam is anisotropic in nature and the required stress and fracture mechanics analysis must include the effects of the direction dependence on material properties. Material testing at NASA MSFC has indicated that the foam can be modeled as a transversely isotropic material. As a first step toward understanding the fracture mechanics of this material, we present a general theoretical and numerical framework for computing stress intensity factors (SIFs), under mixed-mode loading conditions, taking into account the material anisotropy. We present mode I SIFs for middle tension — M(T) — test specimens, using 3D finite element stress analysis (ANSYS) and FRANC3D fracture analysis software, developed by the Cornell Fracture Group. Mode I SIF values are presented for a range of foam material orientations. Also, NASA has recorded the failure load for various M(T) specimens. For a linear analysis, the mode I SIF will scale with the far-field load. This allows us to numerically estimate the mode I fracture toughness for this material. The results represent a quantitative basis for evaluating the strength and fracture properties of anisotropic foam insulation material.

Copyright © 2006 by ASME
Topics: Stress , Insulation



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