Composite material, also called composite, a solid material that results when two or more different substances, each with its own characteristics, are combined to create a new substance whose properties are superior to those of the original components in a specific application. The term composite more specifically refers to a structural material (such as plastic) within which a fibrous material (such as silicon carbide) is embedded. Composite materials achieve the majority of their beneficial properties from a strong bond between the strong, stiff reinforcement-usually fibers (filaments) or reinforcements with other geometrical shapes, for example, particles, platelets-and the weaker, less stiff matrix. Clearly, the first type of damage that can occur is manufacturing defects of the type mentioned in Section 1.4. However, provided there is good wetting between the matrix and the fibers, and no porosity is present, it is rare for a good bond not to be formed between the fibers and the matrix; consequently, aside from cracks caused by resin shrinkage or thermal stresses generated during cooling (or a combination of both), thermomechanical loading is normally the reason for fiber–matrix debonding.
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