In-situ 3D visualization of composite microstructure during polymer-to-ceramic conversion

Conference Dates

November 5-9, 2017


One route for producing fiber-reinforced ceramic-matrix composites entails repeated impregnation and pyrolysis of a preceramic polymer in a fiber preform. The process relies crucially on the development of networks of contiguous cracks during pyrolysis, thereby allowing further impregnation to attain nearly-full densification. The present study employs in-situ x-ray computed tomography (XCT) to reveal in three dimensions the evolution of matrix structure during pyrolysis of a SiC-based preceramic polymer up to temperatures of 1200°C. Observations are used to guide the development of a taxonomy of crack structures and to identify the temporal hierarchy of their formation. A quantitative analysis is employed to characterize effects of local microstructural dimensions on the conditions required to form cracks of various types. Complementary measurements of gas evolution and mass loss of the preceramic polymer during pyrolysis as well as changes in mass density and Young's modulus provide context for the physical changes revealed by XCT. The findings provide a foundation for future development of physics-based models to guide composite fabrication processes.

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