18 Oct Publication: Extraction and refinement of agricultural plant fibers for composites manufacturing
Produced as part of the COMPOSENS project (Interreg FWVl).
Because of their excellent tensile properties, low density, and natural abundance, cellulose-based plant fibers are a sustainable and biodegradable alternative for synthetic fibers in fiber-reinforced composite materials. However, the extraction of plant fibers can be costly and difficult to control because the fibers are enmeshed in a complex network of biopolymers (principally lignin, pectin, and hemicellulose), which serve both to strengthen the fibers and to bind them to their parent organism. It is necessary to extract or degrade these biopolymers to produce fine plant fibers without adversely altering the fibers themselves in the process. In particular, it is important that both the molecular weight and the degree of crystallinity of the cellulose in the fibers be kept as high as possible. This article reviews chemical treatments, which have been used to extract and refine fibers both from purpose-grown fiber crops, such as hemp and flax, and agricultural waste such as coconut husks and pineapple leaves. The treatments are discussed in terms of changes in the mechanical properties and surface chemistry of the fibers.
Glenn Bousfield, Sophie Morin, Nicolas Jacquet, Aurore Richel (Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech – Uliège)