Ductile reinforcements can supply fracture toughness to a polymer matrix by pulling out and by plastically deforming. In the case of metal reinforcements that are not in a toughened condition, there may be more toughening to be gained when the fibers remain in the matrix and plastically deform rather than pulling out. These fibers can be said to have an unused plastic potential. When these fibers bridge a crack, their plastic deformation causes a rapid rise in the force which is trying to pull out the fiber. Because of this, the shape of the fiber must be adjusted along its length if it is to remain anchored and contribute its plastic work. The use of anchored, ductile fibers provides a new design axis that brings new possibilities not achievable by the current research focus on the fiber-matrix interface. This paper describes the experimental pullout of aligned ductile fibers from a polymer matrix, and indicates the effect of the shape and embedded length of the fiber on the toughness increase of the composite. Anchored, plastically deforming fibers are shown to provide a major improvement to the toughening. Even for unoptimized ductile fibers, the calculated toughening improvement equals or exceeds the toughening available from current short glass or graphite fibers.

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