Mechanical performance and moisture absorption of various natural fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites



Natural fibers are seeing increased use in composite applications due to their reduced cost, low density, and environmental benefits (more sustainable and lower carbon footprint). Although many natural fiber systems have been examined over the last decade, there have been relatively few studies which have compared a variety of fiber types and processing methods directly in the same experimental set. In this study, natural fiber composites made from low density polyethylene (LDPE) and a variety of Canadian based fiber feedstocks were examined including hemp bast, flax bast, chemically pulped wood, wood chips, wheat straw, and mechanically pulped triticale. The effect of fiber type, fiber fraction and maleic anhydride polyethylene (MAPE) coupling agent on the mechanical properties and long-term moisture absorption behavior was quantified. In general, addition of natural fiber to LDPE results in an increase in modulus (stiffness) with a corresponding loss of material elongation and impact toughness. Of the fiber types tested, composites made from chemically pulped wood had the best mechanical properties and the least moisture absorption. However, the use of MAPE coupling agent was found to significantly increase the mechanical performance and reduce moisture absorption for all other natural fiber types. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 130: 969-980, 2013