This paper presents the first conceptual study into creating a Plantae-inspired vascular network within a fibre-reinforced polymer composite laminate, which provides an ongoing self-healing functionality without incurring a mass penalty. Through the application of a 'lost-wax' technique, orthogonal hollow vascules, inspired by the 'ray cell' structures found in ring porous hardwoods, were successfully introduced within a carbon fibre-reinforced epoxy polymer composite laminate. The influence on fibre architecture and mechanical behaviour of single vascules (located on the laminate centreline) when aligned parallel and transverse to the local host ply was characterized experimentally using a compression-after-impact test methodology. Ultrasonic C-scanning and high-resolution micro-CT X-ray was undertaken to identify the influence of and interaction between the internal vasculature and impact damage. The results clearly show that damage morphology is influenced by vascule orientation and that a 10 J low-velocity impact damage event is sufficient to breach the vasculature; a prerequisite for any subsequent self-healing function. The residual compressive strength after a 10 J impact was found to be dependent upon vascule orientation. In general, residual compressive strength decreased to 70 per cent of undamaged strength when vasculature was aligned parallel to the local host ply and a value of 63 per cent when aligned transverse. This bioinspired engineering study has illustrated the potential that a vasculature concept has to offer in terms of providing a self-healing function with minimum mass penalty, without initiating premature failure within a composite structure.
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