An investigation of the damping response and structural strength of a fibreglass and rubber particle composite sleeper

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Mbatha, Abednigo Jabu
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Vaal University of Technology
A railway sleeper is a supporting and dampening beam placed underneath the railway track and can be made of different materials. There are four main types of railroad sleeper materials: timber or wooden, steel, concrete and composite material. The railway structural material often suffers from aggressive loading and vibration in the locomotive industry, and the sleepers' current durability and their vibration properties are not sufficiently resilient to vibration. There is a need for a structural material that can withstand significantly higher static and dynamic loads as trains become heavier and faster. Tyre disposal is a global challenge to the environment, with approximately 1.5 billion tyre waste generated annually. Tyres are non-biodegradable, making their disposal extremely difficult.This study seeks to find a way to recycle the waste tyres in an environmentally friendly manner in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 11, which focuses on sustainable cities and communities. The study aimed to optimize a hybrid composite sleeper using waste tyres ground into particles, fibreglass reinforcement and polyester resin to enhance the composites' structural strength while increasing the composite sleeper's damping. The specific objectictives were to characterized rubber particles of waste tyres and fabricate a composite railroad sleeper material using waste rubber particles, glass fibre, and polyester resin..Thereafter , evaluate the mechanical properties of the composite sleeper under loading conditions and damped vibration properties .Lastly , determine the optimal composite sleeper . The rubber particles were characterized through sieving, moisture analysis and SEM. Thereafter, the composite was fabricated following the full experimental design. After that composite was fabricated using the hand lay-up method where the rubber volume fraction of 5, 10, 15 and 20% were varied, and fibreglass volume fractions of 5, 6, 7 and 8 % were obtained. The UTM (universal testing machine) was used to carry out mechanical tests, which included tensile strength, compression strength and flexural strength. Then Leeb hardness was carried out, and the damping properties of composites were determined using a shaker table. Minitab software was used for the optimisation of the composite mix The ANOVA test showed the model's accuracy in predicting tensile strength, compression strength, flexural strength, and vibrational damping, as shown by R2 values of 60.69%, 86.60%, 60.05% and 81.41 %, respectively. However, the model was not reliable for hardness which had an R2 value of 37.87%. The optimisation model indicated that rubber particles of size 150 μm with 7.48% volume fraction of rubber particles and fibreglass volume fraction of 8% are optimum. The corresponding mechanical properties responses for the optimum are tensile strength of 13.3851 MPa, the compression strength of 36.0272 MPa, the flexural strength of 36.5865 MPa and Leeb hardness of 647.7510. The damping properties of composite gave a value of 0.1416. Thereafter, optimum results were validated experimentally, and the model was shown to represent the data accurately. The fabricated composite could help to absorb aggressive forces caused by heavily loaded trains. At the same time, maintain the composite's mechanical strength and eliminate pollution caused by tyres in our environment. Further investigation is required into the impact of using a variety of rubber particle sizes 75 m on the vibrational damping and mechanical characteristics of the composite railway sleeper. Studying the impacts of various synthetic and natural rubber kinds on composite characteristics is also necessary.
M. Eng. (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology), Vaal University of Technology.
Fibreglass and rubber particle composite sleeper, Railway pads, Rails, Composite sleepers, Concrete sleepers, Timber sleepers, Steel sleepers