Fiber-reinforced polymeric composites are susceptible to microbial degradation

J. D. Gu, C. Lu, K. Thorp, A. Crasto, R. Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


A mixed culture of fungi, enriched from degraded polymeric materials, formed biofilms on coupons of fiber-reinforced polymeric composites (FRPCs). They grew actively in aqueous extracts of the composites under ambient conditions. The data indicate that the fungi utilized the resins or fiber chemical sizing as carbon and energy sources. A progressive decline in impedance from above 107 Ohms to below 106 Ohms was detected in the inoculated FRPC panels by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) after 179 days of incubation, but not on the sterile controls. The degradation proceeds through an initial ingress of water into the resins, followed by degradation of bonding between fiber surfaces and resins and finally separation of fibers from the resins. At the end of EIS study, the extent of disbonding in the inoculated composite was greater than the control observed by scanning electron microscopy. These results suggest that the composite materials are susceptible to microbial attack by providing nutrients for growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-369
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodeterioration
  • Degradation
  • Disbonding
  • Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy
  • Fungi
  • Polymeric composites


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