Alkali treatment of coir fibres for coir-polyester composites
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Coir fibres were subjected to alkali treatment with a view to improving the wettability of coir fibres by a commercially available resin such as polyester. Tensile strength of the fibres increases by 15% when the fibres are soaked in 5% aqueous solution of NaOH at 28±1° C for 72 to 76 h after which it shows a gradual decrease. This decrease is much more pronounced when the alkali is replenished after every 24 h. SEM observations showed the removal of cuticle and tyloses from the surface of coir as a result of alkali treatment, resulting in a rough fibre surface with regularly spaced pits. The debonding stress of alkali-treated fibres from polyester matrix was 90% higher than that of untreated fibres from the same matrix. Untreated fibres tended to float in the polyester whereas alkali-treated fibres were uniformly dispersed in polyester. Incorporation of 0.30 volume fraction of untreated and treated fibres in polyester resulted in composites having 11% and less 5% porosity, respectively. Flexural strength, modulus and impact strength of composites containing alkali-treated fibres were 40% higher than those containing the same volume fractions of untreated fibres. Longitudinal ultrasonic velocity and sound attenuation measurements indicated less fibre segregation and better fibre-matrix bonding in composites containing alkali-treated fibres.
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