Thermoplastic composite materials are very advantageous as component layers in subsea risers due to their inherent properties such as high strength, low density, fatigue and chemical resistance. However, response of composite materials to applied loading is complex and three-dimensional in nature. The heterogeneous structure of the composite material induces irregular distribution of stress/strain over the cross-section and thus, it is essential for design to use analytical methods capable of determining the stress-strain relationship in three-dimensional space. Currently, most methods rely upon one-dimensional or two-dimensional data collection techniques with macro scale stress / strain observations for experimental validation. In order to ascertain the correct load to the failure, a complete understanding of the material failure at the micro-scale is essential.

In this work, X-ray computed tomography is employed for the in situ observation of micromechanical failure of the composite material under a compressive load. The observed results are compared and validated with the traditional stress-strain data and finite element analysis. It is observed that the damage in the composite material initiates by delamination which grows as the loading progresses. Moreover, the properties and failure modes are highly dependent on the manufacturing process. By gaining further understanding of the failure modes using these methods, the findings can be utilized in optimizing the design of composite riser structures.

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