Surface modification and adhesion mechanisms in woodfiber-polypropylene composites

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The interfacial adhesion between wood fiber and thermoplastic matrix polymer plays an important role in determining the performance of wood-polymer composites. The objectives of this research were to elucidate the interaction between the anhydride groups of maleated polypropylene (MAPP) and hydroxyl groups of wood fiber, and to clarify the mechanisms responsible for the interfacial adhesion between wood fiber and polypropylene matrix. The modification techniques used were bulk treatment in a thermokinetic reactive processor and solution coating in xylene. FT-IR was used to identify the nature of bonds between wood fiber and MAPP. IGC and wood veneer pull-out test was used to estimate the interfacial adhesion. Mechanical properties of injection molded woodfiber-polypropylene composites were also determined and compared with the results of esterification reaction and interfacial adhesion tests. Confocal Microscopy was employed to observe the morphology at the wood fiber-polypropylene interface, and the dispersion and orientation of wood fiber in the polypropylene matrix, respectively. The effectiveness of MAPP to improve the mechanical properties (particularly the tensile strength) of the composites was attributed to the compatibilization effect which is accomplished by reducing the total wood fiber surface free energy, improving the polymer matrix impregnation, improving fiber dispersion, improving fiber orientation, and enhancing the interfacial adhesion through mechanical interlocking. There was no conclusive evidence of the effects of ester links on the mechanical properties of the composites.

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