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Influence of fiber content on the mechanical


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reinforced thermoplastic...

Article in Materials and Design · September 2012


DOI: 10.1016/j.matdes.2012.04.003

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Materials and Design 40 (2012) 299–303

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Materials and Design


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/matdes

Short Communication

Influence of fiber content on the mechanical and thermal properties of Kenaf


fiber reinforced thermoplastic polyurethane composites
Y.A. El-Shekeil a,⇑, S.M. Sapuan a, K. Abdan b, E.S. Zainudin c
a
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
b
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
c
Laboratory of Bio-Composite Technology, Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The aim of this paper is to study the influence of fiber content on mechanical (i.e. tensile, flexural, impact,
Received 21 February 2012 hardness and abrasion resistance) and thermal (i.e. TGA) properties of Kenaf bast fiber reinforced thermo-
Accepted 1 April 2012 plastic polyurethane (TPU) composites. The composite was prepared by melt-mixing method, followed
Available online 11 April 2012
by compression molding process. Different fiber loadings were prepared; namely, 20%, 30%, 40%, and
50% weight percent. A 30% fiber loading exhibited the best tensile strength, while modulus increased
with increase of fiber content, and strain deteriorated with increase of fiber content. Flexural strength
and modulus increased with increase of fiber loading. Increase of fiber loading resulted in decline in
impact strength. Hardness increased by addition of 30% fiber content. Abrasion resistant decreased with
increase of fiber loading. Fiber loading decreased thermal stability of the composite.
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction of the plant. Core and pith represent the rest. Kenaf bast fiber
has been reported to have superior mechanical properties than
Natural fibers have gained a considerable attention due to ben- the other parts of the plant [14]. A recent review was conducted
efits such as less abrasiveness to equipment, renewability, biode- for Kenaf reinforced composites [15].
gradability, less health hazards and reduction in weight and cost. To utilize natural fiber-reinforced composites, it is necessary to
In composite materials critical fiber loading is required to make compromise a balance of strength, stiffness, and toughness. This is
effectiveness in load transfer between fibers and matrix. the first essential step in designing composite materials. Lots of
Polyurethane thermoset was reinforced with, flax and jute [1], work has been done to study the effect of fiber loading on the
oil palm empty fruit bunch [2–5], rice husk [6], hard wood [7], sisal mechanical properties [16–19]. Thermal properties are important
[8]. Thermoplastic polyurethane has been reinforced with syn- to understand the behavior of the raw materials and the final prod-
thetic fibers such as glass [9], aramid [10] and carbon fiber [11]. uct [20]. Effect of fiber content on thermal properties was studied
TPU was reinforced with natural fibers only in these laboratories previously [8,20,21]. Hardness and abrasion resistance are also
[12]. important. Hardness property gives material high resistance to
Thermoplastic polyurethane’s most important properties are various kinds of shape change when force is applied [22]. TPU
excellent abrasion resistance, good mechanical properties with represents one of the best abrasion resistance materials in the elas-
rubber-like elasticity and tear resistance. Main components of tomeric sector. Thus, effect of fiber addition on hardness and abra-
polyurethane are polyols and isocyanates. Isocyanate active group sion resistance is to be taken into consideration when studying
NCO is eager to react with hydroxyl, in case of Kenaf it will react TPU/KF composite. Therefore, this research aims to study the effect
with OH group of the cellulose. of fiber loading in tensile properties, flexural properties, impact
Kenaf was chosen because of its good mechanical properties. strength, thermal properties, together with hardness and abrasion
Kenaf, as well as other natural fibers, can play an important role resistance.
in substitution of wood which is harvested once in 20 or 25 years
[13], while Kenaf plant can be harvested 2–3 times a year. It can 2. Materials
grow to reach 3–4 meters within 4–5 months. Kenaf plant has
three layers bast, core, and pith. Kenaf bast represents one third Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) was a gift from Bayer Co.
(Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Characteris-
tics of TPU are shown in Table 1. Kenaf V36 bast fiber was obtained
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +60 176211554. from KEFI (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Setiu, Terengganu, Malaysia. Proper-
E-mail address: y_shekeil@yahoo.com (Y.A. El-Shekeil). ties of Kenaf used are shown in Table 2 [23].

0261-3069/$ - see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2012.04.003
300 Y.A. El-Shekeil et al. / Materials and Design 40 (2012) 299–303

Table 1 4. Results and discussion


Characteristics of TPU.

Specific gravity Tensile strength Melting temperature Hardness 4.1. Effect of fiber loading on tensile properties of TPU/KF composites
1.21 48 MPa 210 °C 55D
Fig. 2 demonstrates the effect of fiber loading on the tensile
properties of TPU/KF composite. The 20% fiber loading showed
3. Methods
the lowest strength and modulus; however it showed the highest
strain. The 30% fiber content showed the highest strength. At the
3.1. Fiber preparation
40% and 50% fiber loading strength and strain deteriorated with in-
crease in modulus.
Bast fiber was extracted by mechanical decortication. Pulver-
Several factors influence strength of composites, such as,
ized fibers were sieved using an auto shaker sieve into size range
strengths of fibers and matrix, fiber volume fraction and fiber–ma-
between 125 and 300 lm using mesh 50–120. Fiber was pulver-
trix interfacial bonding. Fibers work as carriers of load in the ma-
ized using Fritsch Pulverisette mill. This fiber size was based on
trix. Good tensile strength depends more on effective and
optimum tensile, flexural and impact strengths [12]. Lengths and
uniform stress distribution [29]. It can be observed from Fig. 2 that
diameters of fibers were measured using (Leica MS 5 microscope).
low fiber loading resulted in low tensile strength. This is attributed
Distribution of three hundred fibers length, diameter and aspect
to the lack of ability of fibers to transfer the load to one another. In
ratio (L/D) is shown in Fig. 1.
other words, at low fiber content, the effect of crack initiation was
more dominant as compared to the effect of crack inhibition [30].
3.2. Composite preparation Strength of the composite is increased at the 30% fiber loading to
a maximum value of 33.5 MPa. This is attributed to a better fi-
TPU/KF was prepared using blending, followed by compression ber–matrix interfacial bonding. At intermediate fiber content the
molding process. Haake polydrive R600 was used in the mixing fibers effectively participate in the stress transfer [29]. The 40%
process at the optimum processing parameters 190 °C, 11 min and 50% loadings have shown lower strength by about 19% and
and 40 rpm, temperature, time and rotating speed; respectively 25%, respectively. At the higher fiber loading, the fibers are not suf-
[12]. Vechno Vation 40 ton compression molding machine was ficiently wetted by the matrix, and the increased population of fi-
used in the compression molding. The samples were pre-heated bers leads to agglomeration and stress transfer gets blocked
for 7 min at 190 °C. Then they were full pressed for 10 min at [29,31]. Increasing the fiber loading resulted in increase of tensile
190 °C. Finally, they were cold-pressed for 5 min at 25 °C. Different modulus. The composite consists of low stiffness matrix with high
fiber loadings were prepared; namely, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50%. stiffness filler (i.e. fibers), thus by increasing the volume of fibers
the stiffness increases; that is a logical trend. Strain showed
3.3. Mechanical characterization decreasing trend when increasing fiber loading. This is also a nor-
mal consequence of the increase of fibers volume which is having a
Tensile and three point bending flexural tests were conducted low strain (Kenaf strain is 1.6% [23]).
using Instron 3365 machine, according to ASTM D 638 [24], and
ASTM 790 [25], respectively. Specimens of tensile were cut into 4.2. Effect of fiber loading on flexural properties of TPU/KF composites
dumbbell shapes using a hydraulic cutter, while flexural specimens
were cut using a band saw with dimensions of 150  13  3 mm. Fig. 3 displays the effect of fiber loading on the flexural proper-
Five specimens were tested with crosshead speed of 5 mm/min ties of TPU/KF composite. The flexural strength and modulus
for tensile and 2 mm/min for flexural. showed increasing trend with increasing fiber loading. Flexural
Notched impact strength was measured by 43-02-01 Monitor strength is low in an elastomeric material like TPU; TPU flexural
Impact Tester, according to ASTM D 256 [26]. At least, five speci- strength 6.55 MPa. When introducing Kenaf fibers to TPU it is
mens were cut into 63  13  3 mm. Impact strength (kJ/m2) was normal to have increase in flexural strength. By the rules of mix-
calculated by dividing the recorded absorbed impact energy by ture, flexural strength and modulus will increase by increasing fi-
the cross-section area of the samples. ber content [29]. Different from tensile strength which increased
Pure matrix and 30% fiber loading samples were tested using ta- in intermediate fiber loading, flexural strength increased with in-
ber abrasion machine. One specimen was tested for each sample. crease of fiber loading. Tensile strength represents one type of
The test was done for 1000 cycles according to ASTM D 4060 [27]. stress works in one direction. Tensile strength can give a good indi-
Pure matrix and 30% fiber loading samples were tested using cation to the interfacial bonding between fibers and matrix. In flex-
hardness shore D. The test was repeated at least 10 times for each ural properties failure takes place in a complicated manner. Failure
specimen. The dimensions of the specimens were 60  60  6 mm. is a result of two stresses that occur at the two sides of the bending
The test was carried out according to ASTM D 2240 [28]. specimen; simultaneously with shear stress at the axisymmetric
plane [29,32,33].
3.4. Thermogravimetric analysis
4.3. Effect of fiber loading on impact strength of TPU/KF composites
TG tests were carried out using a Mettler Toledo TGA/SDTA851e
analyzer. The tests were performed in the temperature range Impact strength showed a negative effect by increase of fiber
between room temperature and 600 °C at a heating rate of 10 °C/ fraction (Fig. 4). This is attributed to the high impact resistance
min in an atmosphere of nitrogen, flowing at 10 ml/min. A sample of neat TPU, so that in low fiber loading the composite shows high-
of 5–20 mg of the materials was heated in the sample pan. er impact strength. However, increase of fiber fraction causes lack

Table 2
Mechanical properties and chemical composition of Kenaf [23].

Tensile strength (MPa) Tensile modulus (GPa) Tensile elongation (%) Extractive (%) Holocellulose (%) a-Celluloses (%) Lignin (%) Ash (%)
930 53 1.6 5.5 86.8 55 14.7 5.4
Y.A. El-Shekeil et al. / Materials and Design 40 (2012) 299–303 301

Fig. 1. (a) Distribution of fiber length, (b) distribution of fiber diameter, and (c) distribution of fiber aspect ratio.

Fig. 2. Effect of fiber loading on tensile properties of TPU/KF composites. Fig. 3. Effect of fiber loading on flexural properties of TPU/KF composites.
302 Y.A. El-Shekeil et al. / Materials and Design 40 (2012) 299–303

Fig. 4. Effect of fiber loading on impact strength of TPU/KF composites.


Fig. 5. Effect of fiber loading on TGA of TPU/KF composites.
of energy absorbance. Thermoplastics when combined with short
natural fibers less of impact strength is usually observed [34].
Strain of the composite also plays a major role in the impact loss steps, at 194–330 °C and 305–386 °C, are due to the decompo-
strength. It is observable from Fig. 2 that strain is decreasing with sition of the three major constituents of the natural fibers; lignin,
increase of fiber loading. Hence, impact strength is also decreasing hemicellulose and cellulose [21].
with increase of fiber loading. Several mass loss steps of pure TPU occur in the range 250–
539 °C. DTG (Fig. 6) shows the main temperature peak of the com-
plicated decomposition of TPU around 363 °C. This peak is because
4.4. Effect of fiber loading on hardness and abrasion resistance of TPU/ of the scission of polyol–isocyanate bond formed during polymer-
KF composites ization, after that isocyanate vaporizes and re-condenses as a
smoke while polyol remains to further decompose later [39].
Hardness was tested for pure TPU and 30% fiber loading. The re- Fig. 5 shows that increase of fibers decreased the thermal stabil-
sults show that adding 30% of fibers to the TPU increased the hard- ity, compared to pure TPU. In case of Kenaf fiber, dehydration and
ness from 55 (shore D) for the pure to 66 (shore D) for the TPU/KF degradation of lignin occurred around 197–386 °C and maximum
30%. There is a proportional correlation between the modulus and percentage of cellulose was found to decompose at a temperature
hardness. This is because hardness is a function of the relative fiber of 357.5 °C.
volume and modulus [22]. It was noticed in this study that modu- Decomposition temperature range of TPU, between 250 and
lus is increasing with increase of fiber loading (Fig. 2). Previous 539 °C, was comparatively higher than that of the fibers. At the
studies reported the same trend [22,35]. TPU/KF 20% fiber loading, the first peak occurs between 246 and
Table 3 shows the effect of abrasion resistance when adding 369 °C, with a threshold at 346 °C. The second decomposition step,
30% fiber loading into the TPU. It is clear that weight loss was in- in the range 369–450 °C with maximum at 398 °C, and the third
creased by fiber addition. Weight loss is more than six times after peak between 450 and 509 °C with a maximum at 474 °C. All these
fiber addition. It is well known that abrasion resistance of poly- peaks correspond to a weight loss of about 79.8%. At the TPU/KF
mers decreases with short fiber reinforcement [36,37]. The 30% fiber loading, the first peak, between 240 and 357 °C, with a
increase of weight loss by fiber loading is in agreement with previ- maximum at 345 °C, the second decomposition step, in the range
ous studies [37,38]. There is an inversely proportional relationship 357–380 °C, with a maximum at 369 °C, the third peak between
with hardness which is also in line with the present study; where, 380 and 445 °C with a maximum at 392 °C, the last decomposition
hardness increased and abrasion decreased with fiber addition. step, in the range 445–509 °C, with a maximum at 468 °C. The
Tearing small pieces of materials is involved during abrasion pro- decomposition steps in 20% and 30% fiber loading, were very fast
cess, therefore tensile strength and elongation and fatigue life are with complicated degradation, with a weight loss of about 79.8%.
important factors in determining abrasion resistance of the mate-
rial. Reinforcement with fibers increases the strength (r) of the
material, however it decreases the strain (d). So that the product
(rd) usually decreases [37,38]. This is the reason why abrasive
property of TPU/KF is negatively affected by the reinforcement.

4.5. Effect of fiber loading on TGA of TPU/KF composite

Fig. 5 shows that the TG curves of Kenaf shows three mass loss
steps. The first mass loss step, in the range 31–153 °C, is due to
evaporation of about 9.5% of moisture. The second and third mass

Table 3
Effect of fiber addition on abrasion resistance.

Pure TPU TPU/KF 30%


Weight before (g) 45.6585 43.9813
Weight after (g) 45.6530 43.9489
Weight loss (g) 0.0055 0.0324
Weight loss (%) 0.012 0.074
Fig. 6. Effect of fiber loading on DTG of TPU/KF composites.
Y.A. El-Shekeil et al. / Materials and Design 40 (2012) 299–303 303

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