Ceramic matrix composites can offer clear potential for a variety of engineering applications where the temperature capabilities of conventional metals are exceeded. Continued mechanical characterisation is essential to gain an understanding of their associated damage and failure mechanisms across a wide range of representative temperatures. The present paper will report ongoing research to characterize the initiation of matrix cracking at room temperature under tensile stress and subsequent damage development under fatigue loading in a SiCf/SiC composite. Imaging and mechanical property data were obtained via in-situ loading within a scanning electron microscope. The temporal nature of damage development was also recorded through the selective employment of acoustic emission. Metrics to describe the spatial distribution of cracks, crack lengths and crack opening displacement under load will be presented. The inspections also provided detailed evidence of the associated crack closure phenomena. The understanding of matrix crack saturation and matrix/fibre interfacial mechanics will be explored, together with the implications for the use of X-ray tomographic inspection of engineering components during service. The potential for these emergent techniques as a basis for future CMC characterization, via automated image recognition and machine learning, will be highlighted.

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