The coupling efficiency of seven coupling agents in wood–polymer composites (WPC) was investigated in this study. The improvement on the interfacial bonding strength, flexural modulus, and other mechanical properties of the resultant wood fiber/high-density polyethylene (HDPE) composites was mainly related to the coupling agent type, function groups, molecular weight, concentration, and chain structure. As a coupling agent, maleated polyethylene (MAPE) had a better performance in WPC than oxidized polyethylene (OPE) and pure polyethylene (PPE) because of its stronger interfacial bonding. A combination of the acid number, molecular weight, and concentration of coupling agents had a significant effect on the interfacial bonding in WPC. The coupling agents with a high molecular weight, moderate acid number, and low concentration level were preferred to improve interfacial adhesion in WPC. The backbone structure of coupling agents also affected the interfacial bonding strength. Compared with the untreated composites, modified composites improved the interfacial bonding strength by 140% on maximum and the flexural storage modulus by 29%. According to the statistical analysis, 226D and 100D were the best of the seven coupling agents. The coupling agent performance was illustrated with the brush, switch, and amorphous structures. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 96: 93–102, 2005
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