Understanding the composite damage formation process and its impact on mechanical properties is a key step towards further improvement of material and higher use. For its accelerated application, furthermore, practice-related modeling strategies are to be established. In this collaborative study, the damage behavior of carbon fiber-reinforced composites under cyclic loading with load reversals is analyzed experimentally and numerically. The differences of crack density evolution during constant amplitude and tension-compression block-loading is characterized with the help of fatigue tests on cross-ply laminates. For clarifying the evolving stress-strain behavior of the matrix during static and fatigue long-term loading, creep, and fatigue experiments with subsequent fracture tests on neat resin samples are applied. The local stress redistribution in the composite material is later evaluated numerically using composite representative volume element (RVE) and matrix models under consideration of viscoelasticity. The experimental and numerical work reveals the strong influence of residual stresses and the range of cyclic tension stresses to the damage behavior. On the microscopic level, stress redistribution dependent on the mean stress takes place and a tendency of the matrix towards embrittlement was found. Therefore, it is mandatory to consider stress amplitude and means stress as inseparable load characteristic for fatigue assessment, which additionally is influenced by production-related and time-dependent residual stresses. The phenomenological findings are incorporated to a numerical simulation framework on the layer level to provide an improved engineering tool for designing composite structures.
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