Adhesion Improvement of Thermoplastics-Based Composites by Atmospheric Plasma and UV Treatments

Gennaro Scarselli, Dong Quan*, Neal Murphy, Brian Deegan, Denis Dowling, Alojz Ivankovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The present work is concerned with adhesive bonding of thermoplastic composites used in general aerospace applications, including polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), polyetherimide (PEI) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) carbon fibre composites. Three different surface treatments have been applied to the PEEK, PPS and PEI-based composites in order to enhance the adhesion: atmospheric plasma, ultraviolet radiation (UV) and isopropanol wiping as a control. Water contact angles and free surface energies were measured following the standard experimental procedure based on the employment of three different liquid droplets. Infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) were subsequently performed to characterize the surface chemistry of the samples after treatment. The single lap joints were manufactured and bonded by an Aerospace grade epoxy-based film adhesive originally developed for use on metals but with the ability to bond treated thermoplastics to good strength (supplied by Henkel Ireland). Quasi-static (QS) tests were conducted. The lap shear strength was evaluated, and the failure mechanisms of the different joints were examined for the range of surface treatments considered. It was found that the performances of the PEEK and PPS joints were considerably improved by the plasma and UV treatments resulting in cohesive and delamination failures, while PEI was unaffected by the plasma and UV treatments and performed very well throughout.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-89
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Composite Materials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adhesion
  • Atmospheric plasma treatment
  • Thermoplastics
  • UV treatment


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