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The Influence of Alkaline Surface Fibre Treatment on the Impact Properties of

Sugar Palm Fibre-Reinforced Epoxy Composites

Article  in  Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering · April 2009

DOI: 10.1080/03602550902725373


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3 authors, including:

Dandi Bachtiar S. M. Sapuan

Universiti Putra Malaysia

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Formulation and Characterization of glass-sugar palm fibre Reinforced Polyurethane Hybrid composites for Automotive Antiroll Bar View project


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The Influence of Alkaline Surface Fibre Treatment on

the Impact Properties of Sugar Palm Fibre-Reinforced
Epoxy Composites
a a a
D. Bachtiar , S. M. Sapuan & M. M. Hamdan
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400
UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Published online: 31 Mar 2009.

To cite this article: D. Bachtiar , S. M. Sapuan & M. M. Hamdan (2009) The Influence of Alkaline Surface Fibre Treatment on
the Impact Properties of Sugar Palm Fibre-Reinforced Epoxy Composites, Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering, 48:4,
379-383, DOI: 10.1080/03602550902725373

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03602550902725373


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Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering, 48: 379–383, 2009
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0360-2559 print=1525-6111 online
DOI: 10.1080/03602550902725373

The Influence of Alkaline Surface Fibre Treatment on the

Impact Properties of Sugar Palm Fibre-Reinforced
Epoxy Composites
D. Bachtiar, S. M. Sapuan, and M. M. Hamdan
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia 43400 UPM
Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

have a complex structure of elementary fibres, consisting of

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The aim of this study is to determine the impact properties of cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin, and others, and thus they
sugar palm fibre-reinforced epoxy polymer composite after intro- are not to be considered in the same, straightforward
duce the alkaline treatment to the fibre. The fibre was treated by way as monofilament fibres[3].
alkaline solution with 0.25 M and 0.5 M NaOH solution for 1 hour, Sugar palm or Arenga pinnata fibre is a potential source
4 hours, and 8 hours soaking time. Hand lay up process was used to
prepare the composite specimens with 10% volume fraction. The of natural fibre from the sugar palm plant, a member of
dimensions of the specimen used to carry out the test were adapted Palmae family. This plant commonly grows in the tropical
from ASTM D256 for Izod Impact testing. The higher impact regions like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is
strength of treated sugar palm fibre reinforced epoxy composite naturally a forest species. The full length of the trunk of
took place at 0.5 M NaOH solution with 8 hours soaking time, a sugar palm tree is completely covered by black fibre. This
i.e., 60 J/m with improving by 12.85% from untreated composite.
black fibre can be used many ways: brooms, paintbrushs,
septic tank base filters, clear water filters, doormats,
Keywords Alkaline treatment; Epoxy; Impact strength; Natural
fibre; Sugar palm fibre
carpets, ropes, chair=sofa cushions, and as a fish nest to
hatch its eggs[4]. In certain region, traditional application
INTRODUCTION of ijuk includes handcraft for kupiah (Acehnese typical
headgear used in prayer) and roofing for traditional houses
Conventional composites such as glass fibre composites
in Mandailing, North Sumatera.
have recently been replaced with natural fibre composites
The main issue in the use of natural fibre composite is
in many applications. Taking advantage of natural fibre
the fibre matrix adhesion. The function of the matrix is
composite properties compared to glass fibre composites,
to transfer the load to the stiff fibres through shear stresses
such as non-abrasive to equipment and freedom from
at the interface. This can be achieved if a sufficient bonding
health problems due to skin irritation during handling
between the matrix and the fibres in ensured. Insufficient
and processing, the use of natural fibre composites is
interfacial bonding at the interface caused their advantages
cannot be fully utilized and it is exposed to environmental
Natural fibres such as hemp, flax, abaca, sisal, jute,
attacks. Poor adhesion between hydrophobic polymers and
henequen[1], kenaf, ramie, sugar palm, oil palm, pineapple
hydrophilic fibres gives poor properties of composites.
leaf, banana pseudo-stem, sugarcane bagasse, coir, rice
These properties can be improved by physical treatments
husk, wood, and bamboo[2] have been reported to be used
(cold plasma treatment, and corona treatment) and chemi-
as fibres in polymer composites. However, these promising
cal treatment (maleic anhydride, organosilanes, isocya-
fibres possess some negative characteristics such as: they
nates, sodium hydroxide, permanganate and peroxide)[5].
are highly hydrophilic and they can vary a lot in properties
Rowell[6] gave the considerations for the selection of fibre
because of the influence of their growing conditions, fibre
chemical treatment such as it must be able to react with
processing technique, the fineness of the fibre and sample
hydroxyl groups, the toxicity, easy to remove after treat-
test-length, which makes accurate predictions of the respec-
ment, low boiling point liquid, effective at low temperature,
tive composite properties difficult. Moreover, natural fibres
and cost. Alkali treatment is also an alternative, as many
times these chemicals swell the cell wall matrix structure
Address correspondence to S. M. Sapuan, Department of
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Universiti Putra and give better penetration.
Malaysia 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia. E-mail: The mechanical properties and morphological aspects of
sapuan@eng.upm.edu.my sugar palm fibre-reinforced epoxy composites have been


studied[7–9]. Study of mechanical properties of sugar palm produced by hand lay-up process and was cut to form a
fibre reinforced epoxy composites gave promising results. specimen to determine its impact properties.
The results of flexural strength test of sugar palm fibre- The sugar palm fibre was collected from Banda Aceh,
reinforced epoxy composites indicated that the 10 wt.% Indonesia and retting process was applied in order to sepa-
woven roving fibre has the highest value compared to other rate the stalk from the core of fibre. In this process, bundles
fibre contents and arrangements. The work of Siregar[10] of sugar palm fibre were soaked into water tank until the
has shown that using sugar palm fibres as a reinforcement dirt vanished from the core section and the stalk was sepa-
agent for the epoxy matrix has provided a new form of rated from the core. The sugar palm fiber stalks were occa-
composite with good strength and rigidity. sionally stirred to facilitate the separation process. Water
Suriani et al.[9] examined the study of interfacial adhe- was changed several times in order to reduce the dirt
sion of tensile specimens of sugar palm fibre reinforced resulted from the retting process. Before using the sugar
epoxy composites. The composite specimens of these com- palm fiber, it was dried for about 2 weeks under the room
posites were prepared at various fibre weights of 10%, 15% temperature.
and 20% with different fibre orientations such as woven The alkali treatment was conducted with concentration
roving, long random and chopped random. Interfacial of 0.25 M and 0.5 M NaOH, at 3 different soaking times
adhesion study of tensile strength specimens reveals that namely 60 minutes, 4 hours and 8 hours. These variations
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the woven roving fibre composites gave good interface were made to optimize the treatment parameter. The con-
adhesion between the fibre and the matrix as compared centrations were ensured by the addition of water at certain
to long random and chopped random fibre-reinforced percentages of the original NaOH (1 M). Sugar palm fibres
epoxy composites. were immersed in NaOH solution at various concentra-
The impact property of a material is its capacity to tions and soaking times, and after that they were rinsed
absorb and dissipate energies under impact or shock load- with distilled water until the rinsed solution reached neutral
ing. The impact energy level of the composites depends (pH 7). Then, fibres were dried at room temperature for
upon several factors such as nature of the component, geo- 4 days.
metry, fiber arrangement and fiber matrix interface. The The SEM analysis was conducted to exercise the micro-
matrix fracture fiber matrix de-bonding and fiber pullout graphics of the surface fiber on the untreated and treated
are important failure modes observed in the fiber compo- surface fibers. The experiments were conducted at Micro-
sites due to impact loading. The load is transferred through scopy and Microanalysis Unit, laboratory of Enzyme and
shear, and when the shear force exceeds the fiber matrix Microbial Technology, Institute of Bioscience, Universiti
interaction force, the fiber matrix de-bonding takes place. Putra Malaysia.
Fiber fracture will be predominating when the stress level The sugar palm epoxy composites board was cut
exceeds the fiber stress, and then the fractured fibers are into test sample (five specimens for each type of fibre
pulled out from the matrix. model were tested). The cutting process was made
Leman et al.[11] have examined the impact properties of using handsaw. The dimension of the specimen used
sugar palm fibre-reinforced epoxy composites. The epoxy to carry out test was adapted from ASTM D256[12]
resin was impregnated with the long and chopped fibre for Izod Impact testing. All these tests were carried
separately in an open mould and then compressed to at for untreated and treated sugar palm fibre-
obtain the desired thickness. Impact strengths of the reinforced epoxy composites.
fibre-reinforced composites improved from 28.8 J=m (with- The Izod impact test was carried out on notched
out reinforcement) to 67.26 J=m (chopped) and 114.27 J=m samples of dimensions 63.5  12.7  3.2 mm using a TMI
(long). pendulum tester (see Figure 2). The velocity of the striking
However, none of the earlier studies looked into the nose at the moment of impact was 3.46 m=s. The pendulum
effect of alkaline fibre treatment of sugar palm fibre on energy employed for testing purpose was 5 Joule.
the impact properties of the composites. Therefore this The impact strength was calculated from the following
paper presents the study of impact behavior of the alkali- equation,
treated sugar palm reinforced epoxy composites.
E¼ ð1Þ
The preparation of Arenga pinnata epoxy composite
plate fabrication based on one type volume fraction, i.e., where E ¼ impact strength, J=m, J ¼ value from machine,
10%, two types the concentration of solution, i.e., 0.25 M J, and t ¼ thickness, m.
and 0.5 M, and three types of soaking time, i.e., 1 hour, 4 In this research, the thickness t, or the distance from
hours, and 8 hours. The fabricating composite plate was notch to end side the specimen is 10 mm (0.1 m).

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION figures, the different views of the surface were seen and it
SEM Micrograph of Sugar Palm Fibre Surface indicated that this difference is because of the effect of
The results of micrographics visual of the untreated and the treatment.
treated surface fibers are shown in Figure 3. Scanning elec- Figure 1(c) and (d) shows the SEM micrograph of sugar
tron microscopy gives an excellent method for examining palm fiber treated with 0.25 M NaOH at the different of
the surface morphology of untreated and treated sugar soaking times for 4 hr and 8 hr, respectively. In the figure,
palm fibers. It is expected that the surface morphology of it is shown that there are some changes of surface from
untreated fibers will be different to that of treated fibers, (c) to (d). In (d) it experienced the absence of impurities,
particularly in terms of their level of smoothness and and if we compared it to the untreated fiber, Figure 1(c)
roughness. and (d) provides the evidence that treated surfaces are
Figure 1(a) shows the SEM micrograph of an untreated cleaner but looked jagged and one can feel that they are
sugar palm fiber. Clearly, the impurities were observed on rougher when touched.
the surface of the untreated fiber. On the other hand, Furthermore, Figure 1(e) and (f) provides the SEM
Figure 1(b) shows sugar palm fibers after treatment with micrograph of sugar palm fiber treated with 0.5 M NaOH
0.25 M NaOH that was soaked for 1 hour. The surface at different of soaking times for 1 hr and 8 hr, respectively.
This figure also shows that the treated surfaces are cleaner
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shows some impurities have been removed from the fiber

and also shows some scrapes along the surface. It indicates and rougher when touched than the untreated sugar palm
that the treatment was good enough to effectively remove fiber. This phenomenon contributes to the mechanical
the impurities from the sugar palm fiber surface. In both performance of the composites. Physically, the occurrences
of rough surface giving the mechanical lock between
the fibre surface with the matrix and it maybe enhances
the interfacial bonding between them.

The Impact Properties

The impact strength is the energy required to break
specimens in which there is a v-notch to create an initial
stress point. The results of impact testing of sugar palm
fibre reinforced epoxy composite were shown in Table 1.
The complete results for the impact properties of sugar
palm composite cover the untreated specimens and the
alkali treated specimens with different concentrations and
soaking times.
Figure 2 shows the izod impact strength results in
graphic form to more understanding the interpretation of
the data clearly. The sugar palm composites tested
displayed low impact strengths for 1 hour soaking time
treatment compared to untreated composites. However,
the composites start to improve the impact strength for
the 4-hr and 8-hr soaking time treatments. This phenom-
enon was showed in the similar trend for both 0.25 M
NaOH and 0.5 M NaOH solution concentrations.
It is well known that the impact response of fibre com-
posites is highly influenced by the interfacial bond strength,
the matrix and fibre properties[5]. Impact energy is dissi-
pated by debonding, fibre and=or matrix fracture and fibre
pull-out. Fibre fracture dissipates less energy compared to
fibre pull-out. The former is common in composites with
strong interfacial bond while the occurrence of the latter
is sign of a weak bond.
FIG. 1. The SEM micrograph of (a) untreated sugar palm fiber and The treatment during 1-hr soaking time giving less
(b) treated sugar palm fiber in 0.25 M NaOH with 1-hr soaking time impact strength compared to untreated composites may
(c) treated sugar palm fiber in 0.25 M NaOH with 4-hr soaking time and
(d) treated sugar palm fiber in 0.25 M NaOH with 8-hr soaking time. be due to the weak bonding between fibre and matrix.
(e) treated sugar palm fiber in 0.5 M NaOH with 1-hr soaking time and The treatment process during 1 hr for both 0.25 M NaOH
(f) treated sugar palm fiber in 0.5 M NaOH with 8-hr soaking time. and 0.5 M NaOH gives lower impact strength than the

The impact properties of sugar palm epoxy composites
Work of Fracture (J=m)
No. Type 1 2 3 4 5 Mean S.D
1 No-treatment 36.7 72.1 34.8 47.8 42.2 46.72 13.48
2 0.25 M=1 hr. 33 34.8 36.7 36.7 34.8 35.2 1.39
3 0.25 M=4 hrs. 44.1 29.3 36.7 40.4 38.5 37.8 4.91
4 0.25 M=8 hrs. 55.2 51.5 60.8 38.5 44.1 50.02 7.91
5 0.5 M=1 hr. 34.8 40.4 42.2 44.1 42.2 40.74 3.19
6 0.5 M=4 hrs. 57.1 49.6 44.1 53.4 42.2 49.28 5.57
7 0.5 M=8 hrs. 66.4 49.6 59 75.8 49.6 60.08 10.08
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untreated composites. The rational explanation for this and hemicellulose leads to better packing of cellulose
phenomenon is the occurrence of something changing on chains and gives increasing crystallinity. It contributes to
the composites as the effect of alkaline treatment. The the toughness of the material composites.
alkali treatment removes the lignin and hemicellulose, The strong alkali treatment influence the interfacial
and the interfibrillar region is likely to be less dense and less bonding characteristics while the chemical removal of
rigid[13]. Thus, the softening of the inter-fibrillar matrix cementing material facilitate exposure of OH groups on
adversely affects the stress transfer between the fibrils, the fibre surface, thus enabling better bonding between
and thereby less dissipated energy with impact loading on the fibre and matrix.
the composites. Figure 3 represents the comparison impact strength
The improving impact strength emerges while the treat- between composites with 0.25 M NaOH treatment and
ment is gradually changed. For the 4-hr and 8-hr soaking 0.5 M NaOH treatment. It shows the dominant impact
times, the impact strength of composites are gradually strength of the 0.5 M NaOH treatment compared to the
increase to the ultimate value. And the same trend also impact strength of composites with the 0.25 M NaOH
occurred at both solution concentrations, 0.25 M NaOH treatment. It proves that the higher concentration of alkali
and 0.5 M NaOH, respectively. As lignin is gradually solution gives better impact performance for the compo-
removed, the middle lamella joining the ultimate cells is sites. It may be due to the good interfacial bonding between
expected to be more plastic and homogeneous, owing to the fibre and matrix as the effect of the strong alkali
the gradual elimination of microvoids. Removing the lignin solution on the surface of the fibres. This result is con-
firmed by SEM Analysis (Figure 1), that shows the rougher
surface for the fibre with the high concentration solution

FIG. 2. The impact strength of alkali-treated and untreated sugar palm FIG. 3. The impact strength of untreated and alkali-treated sugar palm
reinforced epoxy composites. fibre reinforced epoxy composites vs. soaking time.

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