Fungal-modification of Natural Fibers: A Novel Method of Treating Natural Fibers for Composite Reinforcement
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Growing interest in green products has provided fresh impetus to the research in the field of renewable materials. Plant fibers are not only renewable but also light in weight and low in cost. Polymer composites manufactured using them find applications in diverse fields such as automobiles, housing, and furniture. However, their hydrophilic nature and inadequate adhesion with matrix limits their use in high performance applications. In this study, a novel method for improving adhesion characteristics of natural fibers has been developed. This method is carried out by treating hemp fibers with a fungus: Ophiostoma ulmi, obtained from elm tree infected with Dutch elm disease. Treated fibers showed improved acid–base characteristics and resistance to moisture. Improved acid–base interactions between fiber and resin are expected to improve the interfacial adhesion, whereas improved moisture resistance would benefit the durability of the composites. Finally, composites were prepared using untreated/treated fibers and unsaturated polyester resin. Composites with treated fibers showed slightly better mechanical properties, which is most probably due to improved interfacial adhesion.
KeywordsNatural fiber Composite Interface Acid–base characteristics Inverse gas chromatography
Authors would like to thank Auto21 Network of Centers of Excellence for providing the financial support to carry out this project. We are also grateful to Hempline Inc., Canada and Dr. M. Dumas of The Great Lake forest Center, Canada Forest Service for providing hemp fibers and isolates of O. ulmi respectively. Valuable advice of Dr. Robart Zang is deeply appreciated.
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