The processing variables for making hemp-fiber-reinforced unsaturated polyester (UPE) composites were optimized through orthogonal experiments. It was found that the usage of initiator, methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, had the most significant effect on the tensile strength of the composites. The treatment of hemp fibers with a combination of 1,6-diisocyanatohexane (DIH) and 2-hydroxyethyl acrylate (HEA) significantly increased tensile strength, flexural modulus of rupture, and flexural modulus of elasticity, and water resistance of the resulting hemp-UPE composites. FTIR spectra revealed that DIH and HEA were covalently bonded to hemp fibers. Scanning electron microscopy graphs of the fractured hemp-UPE composites demonstrated that treatment of hemp fibers with a combination of DIH and HEA greatly improved the interfacial adhesion between hemp fibers and UPE. The mechanism of improving the interfacial adhesion is proposed. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011
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