, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 4693–4706 | Cite as

Determination of cross-sectional area of natural plant fibres and fibre failure analysis by in situ SEM observation during microtensile tests

  • Hangbo YueEmail author
  • Juan C. Rubalcaba
  • Yingde Cui
  • Juan P. Fernández-Blázquez
  • Chufen Yang
  • Peter S. ShuttleworthEmail author
Original Research


Reported tensile mechanical properties of many natural plant fibres vary to a large extent due to very often inappropriate measurement of the fibre’s cross-sectional area by diameter estimation. Using natural ramie filament as a model testing elementary fibre, a more realistic stereological determination is presented, including microscopic imaging analysis of the fibres’ cross-sectional area. When applying the area data using this approach to calculate tensile strength, a far narrower variation in the fibres’ strength distribution according to Weibull analysis was found. The gauge length effects on the mechanical performance of the natural fibre were revealed and analysed. In addition, in situ SEM observations during microtensile measurements detected real time changes in the fibres’ structure during stress. It was found that fibre failure was mainly caused by macroscopic physical defects and associated microscopic slippage of the microfibrils. Furthermore, results of cyclic tensile tests indicated that the fibre underwent elastic deformations under progressive loading–unloading cycles, which is due to bonding restriction that the surrounding matrix presents against the slippage of the microfibrils and reorganisation of hydrogen bonds.

Graphical abstract


Natural fibres Cross-section Defects Failure criterion Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) 



The authors are thankful for financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21706039, 21676058) and the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (2017A030310300, 2016A030313694). PSS also gratefully acknowledges the Spanish Ministry Economy and Competitivity (MINECO) for a Ramón y Cajal fellowship (RYC-2014-16759) and a Proyecto de Investigación en el Programa Estatal de Fomento de la Investigación Científica y Técnica de Excelencia (MAT2017-88382-P). We are grateful to Dr. Álvaro Ridruejo and Editor Alfred D. French, Ph.D. for their kind suggestion and discussion.

Supplementary material

10570_2019_2428_MOESM1_ESM.docx (439 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 438 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hangbo Yue
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan C. Rubalcaba
    • 2
    • 4
  • Yingde Cui
    • 3
  • Juan P. Fernández-Blázquez
    • 4
  • Chufen Yang
    • 1
  • Peter S. Shuttleworth
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Chemical Engineering and Light IndustryGuangdong University of TechnologyGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Robert BOSCH GmbHMadridSpain
  3. 3.Guangzhou Vocational College of Science and TechnologyGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.IMDEA Materials InstituteMadridSpain
  5. 5.Department of Polymer Physics, Elastomers and Energy, Institute of Polymer Science and TechnologyCSICMadridSpain

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