Exploring the Potential of Cotton Industry Byproducts in the Plastic Composite Sector: Macro and Micromechanics Study of the Flexural Modulus

The textile sector produces yearly great quantities of cotton byproducts, and the major part is either incinerated or landfilled, resulting in serious environmental risks. The use of such byproducts in the composite sector presents an attractive opportunity to valorize the residue, reduce its environmental impact, and decrease the pressure on natural and synthetic resources. In this work, composite materials based on polypropylene and dyed cotton byproducts from the textile industry were manufactured. The competitiveness of the resulting composites was evaluated from the analyses, at macro and micro scales, of the flexural modulus. It was observed that the presence of dyes in cotton fibers, also a byproduct from the production of denim items, notably favored the dispersion of the phases in comparison with other cellulose-rich fibers. Further, the presence of a coupling agent, in this case, maleic anhydride grafted polypropylene, enhanced the interfacial adhesion of the composite. As a result, the flexural modulus of the composite at 50 wt.% of cotton fibers enhanced by 272% the modulus of the matrix. From the micromechanics analysis, using the Hirsch model, the intrinsic flexural modulus of cotton fibers was set at 20.9 GPa. Other relevant micromechanics factors were studied to evaluate the contribution and efficiency of the fibers to the flexural modulus of the composite. Overall, the work sheds light on the potential of cotton industry byproducts to contribute to a circular economy ​
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