Effect of Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Treatment on Surface Characteristics and Adhesive Bond Quality of Peel Ply Prepared Composites
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The purpose of this research was to investigate if atmospheric pressure plasma treatment could modify peel ply prepared composite surfaces to create strong adhesive bonds. Two peel ply surface preparation composite systems previously shown to create weak bonds (low fracture energy and adhesion failure) that were potential candidates for plasma treatment were Toray T800/3900-2 carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) prepared with Precision Fabrics Group, Inc. (PFG) 52006 nylon peel ply and Hexcel T300/F155 CFRP prepared with PFG 60001 polyester peel ply. It was hypothesized that atmospheric pressure plasma treatment could functionalize and/or remove peel ply remnants left on the CFRP surfaces upon peel ply removal. Surface characterization measurements and double cantilever beam (DCB) testing were used to determine the effects of atmospheric pressure plasma treatment on surface characteristics and bond quality of peel ply prepared CFRP composites. Previous research showed that Toray T800/3900-2 carbon fiber reinforced epoxy composites prepared with PFG 52006 peel ply and bonded with Cytec MetlBond 1515-3M structural film adhesive failed in adhesion at low fracture energies when tested in the DCB configuration. Previous research also showed that DCB samples made of Hexcel T300/F155 carbon fiber reinforced epoxy composites prepared with PFG 60001 peel ply and bonded with Henkel Hysol EA 9696 structural film adhesive failed in adhesion at low fracture energies. Recent research suggested that plasma treatment could be able to activate these "un-bondable" surfaces and result in good adhesive bonds. Nylon peel ply prepared 177 °C cure and polyester peel ply prepared 127 °C cure CFRP laminates were treated with atmospheric pressure plasma after peel ply removal prior to bonding. Atmospheric pressure plasma treatment was capable of significantly increasing fracture energies and changing failure modes. For Toray T800/3900-2 laminates prepared with PFG 52006 and bonded with MetlBond 1515-3M, plasma treatment increased fracture energies from < 200 J/m2 to > 460 J/m2. Atmospheric pressure plasma treatment also increased fracture energies of Hexcel T300/F155 laminates prepared with PFG 60001 and bonded with EA 9696 from < 280 J/m2 to > 1500 J/m2. It was demonstrated that atmospheric pressure plasma treatment was able to transform poor bonding surfaces into acceptable ones by reversing the negative effects of incorrect peel ply usage. To determine if the primary reason for adhesion was functionalization or removal, a number of experiments were performed. Surface characteristics of peel ply only and plasma treated samples were determined using contact angle (CA) measurements, FTIR spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). CA was used to assess solid surface energy that was useful to determine wetting of the adhesive on the adherend, one requirement of adhesion. FTIR and XPS were used to analyze composite surface chemistry, including the identification of functional groups that were a product of atmospheric pressure plasma treatment, as well as contaminants that can inhibit adhesive bonding. SEM was used to capture surface morphology to identify peel ply remnants and whether these remnants were physically removed or modified due to plasma treatment. This research supported that atmospheric pressure plasma treatment resulted in adhesion primarily due to functionalization of peel ply remnants, though a removal mechanism was not disproven. It was also shown that surface energy exhibited potential for predicting adhesion. Lastly, this research indicated that plasma treatment is a robust surface preparation, as strong bonds were observed up to 30 days after treatment.