AbstractThe employment of various materials (such as lightweight metal alloys and composites) with distinct physicochemical properties in the automotive and aerospace industries has opened a new field of research into the joining of dissimilar materials. Several alternative methods have recently been developed for joining metal-composite multi-material structures. Friction spot joining (FSpJ) is an innovative technique within welding-based joining technologies suitable for metal-composite structures. This work aims to address and overview different aspects of FSpJ. Case-study overlap joints using aluminum alloy AA2024-T3 and carbon-fiber-re-inforced poly(phenylene sulfide) (CF-PPS) were produced. Peak temperatures of up to 474 °C were recorded during the process. Such temperatures are well below thermal decomposition of PPS, and extensive thermal degradation of PPS was not detected by thermal analysis in this work. Microstructure analysis was performed showing usual metallurgical phenomena (recovery and dynamic re-crystallization) taking place with friction-based aluminum joining. Microstructural changes caused an alteration to the local mechanical properties as confirmed by microhardness and nanohardness measurements. Moreover, microstructural analysis of the composite part revealed the formation of a small number of volumetric defects such as pores and fiber-matrix debonding. Bonding mechanisms at the interface were studied into details by microscopy analysis and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The influence of various aluminum surface pre-treatments on the bonding mechanisms and mechanical performance of single-lap shear joints was studied. In addition, fatigue life of the joints was investigated using an exponential model to obtain S-N curves. Finally, the quasi-static strength of the friction spot joints was compared with the state-of-the-art adhesive bonding. Friction spot joints showed 50 % stronger joints than adhesively bonded joints, indicating the potential of the technique to be used for joining lightweight metals to composite materials.