Use of Industrial Hemp Fibers to Reinforce Wheat Gluten Plastics

  • C. Wretfors
  • S.-W. Cho
  • M. S. Hedenqvist
  • S. Marttila
  • S. Nimmermark
  • E. Johansson
Original Paper


The next generation of manufactured products must be sustainable and industrially eco-efficient, making materials derived from plants an alternative of particular interest. Wheat gluten (WG) is an interesting plant material to be used for production of plastic similar materials due to its film-forming properties. For usage of plastics in a wider range of applications, composite materials with improved mechanical properties are demanded. The present study investigates the possibilities of reinforcing WG plastics with hemp fibers. Samples were manufactured using compression molding (130 °C, 1600 bar, 5 min). Variation in fiber length, content (5, 10, 15 and 20 wt%) and quality (poor, standard, good) were evaluated. Mechanical properties and structure of materials were examined using tensile testing, light and scanning electron microscopy. Hemp fiber reinforcement of gluten plastics significantly influenced the mechanical properties of the material. Short hemp fibers processed in a high speed grinder were more homogenously spread in the material than long unprocessed fibers. Fiber content in the material showed a significant positive correlation with tensile strength and Young’s modulus, and a negative correlation with fracture strain and strain at maximum stress. Quality of the hemp fibers did not play any significant role for tensile strength and strain, but the Young’s modulus was significantly and positively correlated with hemp fiber quality. Despite the use of short hemp fibers, the reinforced gluten material still showed uneven mechanical properties within the material, a result from clustering of the fibers and too poor bonding between fibers and gluten material. Both these problems have to be resolved before reinforcement of gluten plastics by industrial hemp fibers is applicable on an industrial scale.


Composite materials Hemp Plastics Renewable raw materials Wheat gluten 



This work was financed by Formas, Sweden. The authors thank Maria Luisa Prieto-Linde for practical help in the laboratory and Kerstin Brismar for her assistance with SEM.


  1. 1.
    Winandy JE (2006) Advanced wood- and bio-composites: enhanced performance and sustainability. In: Proceedings of 4th international conference on advanced materials and processes, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cuq B, Gontard N, Guilbert S (1998) Cereal Chem 75:1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gennadios A (ed) (2002) Formation and properties of wheat gluten films and coatings. In: Protein based films and coatings. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Olabarrieta I, Cho S-W, Gällstedt M, Sarasua JR, Johansson E, Hedenqvist MS (2006) Biomacromolecules 7:1657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ullsten NH, Gällstedt M, Johansson E, Gräslund A, Hedenqvist MS (2006) Biomacromolecules 7:771CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Roy S, Weller CL, Gennadios A, Zeece MG, Testin RF (1999) J Food Sci 64:57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Redl A, Morel M-H, Bonicel J, Guilbert S, Vergnes B (1999) Rheol Acta 38:311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Morel M-H, Redl A, Guilbert S (2002) Biomacromolecules 3:488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Domenek S, Morel M-H, Bonicel J, Guilbert S (2002) J Agric Food Chem 50:5947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gällstedt M, Matozzi A, Johansson E, Hedenqvist MS (2004) Biomacromolecules 5:2020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mohanty AK, Misra M, Drzal LT (2002) J Polym Environ 10:19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kohler R, Wedler M (1994) Non-textile applications of flax fibers, Vortrags-nr 331. In: Proceedings of the Techtextil-symposium. Frankfurt, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Liu W, Misra M, Askeland P, Drzal LT, Mohanty AK (2005) Polymer 46:2710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mohanty AK, Misra M, Drzal LT (2005) J Polym Environ 13:279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kunanopparat T, Menut P, Morel M-H, Guilbert S (2008) Compos A Appl Sci Manuf 39:777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kunanopparat T, Menut P, Morel M-H, Guilbert S (2008) Compos A Appl Sci Manuf 39:1787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kessler RW, Kohler R, Tubach M (1999) Strategy for a sustainable future of fiber crops. In: Proceedings of the international conference on natural fibers performance, Copenhagen, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kohler R, Kessler RW (1999) Designing natural fibers for advanced materials. In: Proceedings of the 5th International conference on woodfiber-plastic composites, Madison, USA, 25–26 May 1999Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    SCAN (1996) Paper and boards—thickness and apparent sheet-density or apparent bulk-density. Serie: P. Designation: 7:96. Scandinavian Pulp, Paper and Board Testing Committee, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    ISO 527-3:1995 (E) (1995) Plastics—determination of tensile properties. International Organization for Standardization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Song YH, Zheng Q, Liu C (2008) Ind Crop Prod 28:56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Song YH, Zheng Q (2009) Ind Crop Prod 29:446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Song YH, Zheng Q, Zhou WC (2009) Sci China B Chem 52:257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Liu W, Mohanty AK, Askeland P, Drzal LT, Misra M (2004) Polymer 45:7589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ullsten NH, Cho S-W, Gällstedt M, Spencer G, Johansson E, Hedenqvist MS (2009) Biomacromolecules 10:479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wambua P, Ivens J, Verpoest I (2003) Compos Sci Technol 63:1259CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Wretfors
    • 1
  • S.-W. Cho
    • 2
  • M. S. Hedenqvist
    • 2
  • S. Marttila
    • 3
  • S. Nimmermark
    • 4
  • E. Johansson
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural SciencesSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden
  2. 2.Fibre and Polymer TechnologyRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural SciencesSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden
  4. 4.Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural SciencesSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden

Personalised recommendations