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Viscoelastic Behavior Of Foamed Polystyrene/Paper Composites

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1281.1 - 8.1281.8

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Paper Authors

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Robert McCoy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2793

Viscoelastic Behavior of Foamed Polystyrene/Paper Composites

Robert A. McCoy Youngstown State University


This paper outlines a simple lab experiment for high school students or freshman engineering students designed to demonstrate the principle behind why sandwich composites are so stiff as well as light-weight. A sandwich composite consists of a very lightweight core (such as a foamed polymer or honeycomb structure) with sheets of another material (such as paper, plastic, fiberglass, or aluminum) on the top and bottom surfaces. Applications for sandwich composites requiring both high-stiffness and lightweight include aircraft panels, boat hulls, jet skis, snow skis, partitions, and garage doors. In this experiment, the students measure the increase in stiffness when the top and bottom skins of paper are added to a Styrofoam beam to form the sandwich composite. Also this experiment includes a creep test in which the students measure and plot the deflection of the Styrofoam beam versus time to illustrate the viscoelastic behavior of Styrofoam.

Materials and Equipment Required

1. A sheet of Styrofoam (foamed polystyrene) approximately 122 cm (4 ft) long, 35.5 cm (14 in) wide, and 1.83 cm (0.72 in) thick. 2. A metal frame with a clamp to hold one end of the Styrofoam beam. 3. Six metal washers, about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) diameter. 4. One jumbo paperclip. 5. One large paper grocery bag. 6. Scissors, cutting knife, and paper glue. 7. A ruler or meter stick. 8. A weighing scale or balance 9. A computer with MS Excel


For each group of students performing this experiment, at least four rectangular bars approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) wide and 35.5 cm (14 in) long were cut from the Styrofoam sheet. Moreover, at least four paper strips, also approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) wide and 35.5 cm (14 in) long were cut from the grocery bag. The students then constructed the following four Styrofoam beam configurations: A. Styrofoam bar with no paper. B. Styrofoam bar with paper strip glued to the top surface. C. Styrofoam bar with paper strip glued to the bottom surface. D. Styrofoam bar with paper strips glued to the top and bottom surfaces. The glue was allowed to dry thoroughly before testing the beams. The six metal washers were each weighed and their weights written on their sides. Starting with beam A, one end of the bar

McCoy, R. (2003, June), Viscoelastic Behavior Of Foamed Polystyrene/Paper Composites Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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