Syntactic foams are particulate composite materials that are extensively integrated in naval and aerospace structures as core materials for sandwich panels. While several studies have demonstrated the potential of syntactic foams as energy absorbing materials in impact tests, our understanding of their response to water impact remains elusive. In this work, we attempt a first characterization of the behavior of a vinyl ester/glass syntactic subject to slamming. High-speed imaging is leveraged to elucidate the physics of water impact of syntactic foam wedges in a free-fall drop tower. From the images, we simultaneously measure the deformation of the wedge and the hydrodynamic loading, thereby clarifying the central role of fluid–structure interaction during water impact. We study two different impact heights and microballoon density to assess the role of impact energy and syntactic foam composition on the slamming response. Our results demonstrate that both these factors have a critical role on the slamming response of syntactic foams. Reducing the density of microballoons might help to reduce the severity of the hydrodynamic loading experienced by the wedge, but this comes at the expense of a larger deformation. Such a larger deformation could ultimately lead to failure for large drop heights. These experimental results offer compelling evidence for the role of hydroelastic coupling in the slamming response of syntactic foams.
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