Stability and Failure of Composite Structures

Learning outcomes

  • Explain in detail the mechanical behaviour of anisotropic media, in particular multi-layered composite structures
  • Analyse and evaluate the effect of stacking sequences on the mechanical behaviour of composite plates; optimise layups for certain loading scenarios
  • Analyse buckling behaviour of slender composite structures (struts, plates)
  • Evaluate buckling loads and post-buckling behaviour for various plate configurations and loading conditions
  • Breakdown and examine failure mechanisms in composite structures
  • Analyse and evaluate failure loads for composite structural components

Module syllabus

  • Introduction to fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites (concept, examples, materials and their characteristics, manufacturing processes)
  • Review of solid mechanics (Cauchy stress tensor, Hooke’s law in 3D for anisotropic material behaviour)
  • Classical Laminate Theory (coordinate transformation, stress-strain relationship for unidirectional plies and multi-layered structures)
  • Stability failure of composite structures (review elastic stability theory, buckling and post-buckling of composite struts and plates)
  • Material failure in composites (failure mechanisms in composites, failure criteria for orthotropic layers, physically-based failure models)



Assessment Type 


Two assignments (each 15 %) 


30 % 

Oral presentation 


10 % 

Written examination (two hours) 


60 % 

Module leaders

Dr Anton Koellner