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Delamination is a mode of failure for composite materials. In laminated materials, repeated cyclic stresses, impact, and so on can cause layers to separate, forming a mica-like structure of separate layers, with significant loss of mechanical toughness. Delamination also occurs in reinforced concrete structures subject to reinforcement corrosion, in which case the oxidized metal of the reinforcement is greater in volume than the original metal. The oxidized metal therefore requires greater space than the original reinforcing bars, which causes a wedge-like stress on the concrete. This force eventually overcomes the relatively weak tensile strength of concrete, resulting in a separation (or delamination) of the concrete above and below the reinforcing bars.
The cause of fiber pull-out (another form of failure mechanism) and delamination is weak bonding. Thus, delamination is an insidious kind of failure as it develops inside of the material, without being obvious on the surface, much like metal fatigue.
Delamination failure may be detected in the material by its sound; solid composite has bright sound, while delaminated part sounds dull, reinforced concrete sounds solid, whereas delaminated concrete will have a light drum-like sound when exposed to a dragged chain pulled across its surface. Bridge decks in cold climate countries which use de-icing salts and chemicals are commonly subject to delamination and as such are typically scheduled for annual inspection by chain-dragging as well as subsequent patch repairs of the surface. Other nondestructive testing methods are used, including embedding optical fibers coupled with optical time domain reflectometer testing of their state, testing with ultrasound, radiographic imagining, and infrared imaging.
As there is increasing use of composite materials aircraft construction (e.g. the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350), delamination is an air safety concern, especially in the tail sections of the airplanes.