Fungal degradation of fiber-reinforced composite materials

Ji Dong Gu*, Chun Lu, R. Mitchell, K. Thorp, A. Crasto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

33 Scopus citations


As described in a previous report, a fungal consortium isolated from degraded polymeric materials was capable of growth on presterilized coupons of five composites, resulting in deep penetration into the interior of all materials within five weeks. 1 Data describing the utilization of composite constituents as nutrients for the microflora are described in this article. Increased microbial growth was observed when composite extract was incubated with the fungal inoculum at ambient temperatures. Scanning electron microscopic observation of carbon fibers incubated with a naturally developed population of microorganisms showed the formation of bacterial biofilms on the fiber surfaces, suggesting possible utilization of the fiber chemical sizing as carbon and energy sources. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy was used to monitor the phenomena occurring at the fiber-matrix interfaces. Significant differences were observed between inoculated and sterile panels of the composite materials. A progressive decline in impedance was detected in the inoculated panels. Several reaction steps may be involved in the degradation process. Initial ingress of water into the resin matrix appeared to be followed by degradation of fiber surfaces, and separation of fibers from the resin matrix. This investigation suggested that composite materials are susceptible to microbial attack by providing nutrients for growth.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Specialist publicationMaterials Performance
StatePublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes


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