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Effect of fibre length and chemical modifications on the tensile properties of intimately mixed short sisal/glass hybrid fibre reinforced low density polyethylene composites



Hybrid composites prepared by the incorporation of two or more different types of fibres into a single polymer matrix deserve much attention. This method of hybridisation of composites offers a profitable procedure for the fabrication of products while the resulting materials are noted for their high specific strength, modulus and thermal stability. The influence of the relative composition of short sisal/glass fibres, their length and distribution on the tensile properties of short sisal/glass intimately mixed polyethylene composites (SGRP) was examined. Different compositions of sisal and glass such as 70/30, 50/50 and 30/70 have been prepared with varying fibre lengths in the range of 1–10 mm. Emphasis has also been given to the variation of fibre–matrix adhesion with several fibre chemical modifications. Chemical surface modifications such as alkali, acetic anhydride, stearic acid, permanganate, maleic anhydride, silane and peroxides given to the fibres and matrix were found to be successful in improving the interfacial adhesion and compatibility between the fibre and matrix. The nature and extent of chemical modifications were analysed by infrared spectroscopy while improvement in fibre–matrix adhesion was checked by studying the fractography of composite samples using a scanning electron microscope. Assessment of water retention values has been found to be a successful tool to characterize the surface of the stearic acid modified fibres. It was found that the extent of improvement in tensile properties of SGRP varied with respect to the nature of chemical modifications between fibre and matrix. Improved mechanical anchoring and physical and chemical bonding between fibre and polyethylene matrix are supposed to be the reasons for superior tensile strength and Young's modulus in treated composites. Several secondary reasons such as high degree of fibre dispersion and reduced hydrophilicity in chemically modified fibres also are believed to play a role. Among the various chemical modifications, the best tensile strength and modulus was exhibited by the SGRP with benzoyl peroxide treated fibres. This is attributed to the peroxide-initiated grafting of polyethylene on to the fibres. Copyright © 2004 Society of Chemical Industry