Comparative Study on the Stiffness of Poly(lactic acid) Reinforced with Untreated and Bleached Hemp Fibers

Composite materials containing natural reinforcement fibers, generally called biocomposites, have attracted the interest of both researchers and manufacturers, but the most environmentally advantageous combinations include a bio-based matrix, as well. With this in mind, a poly(lactic acid) (PLA) matrix was reinforced with natural fibers from hemp, both untreated strands (UHSs) and soda-bleached fibers (SBHFs). The preparation of the subsequent fully bio-sourced, discontinuously reinforced composites involved kinetic mixing, intensive single-screw extrusion, milling, and injection molding. Up to a fiber content of 30 wt%, the tensile modulus increased linearly with the volume fraction of the dispersed phase. Differences between SBHFs (up to 7.6 Gpa) and UHSs (up to 6.9 Gpa) were hardly significant (p = 0.1), but SBHF-reinforced composites displayed higher strain at failure. In any case, for the same fiber load (30 wt%), the Young’s modulus of PLA/hemp biocomposites was greater than that of glass fiber (GF)-reinforced polypropylene (5.7 GPa), albeit lower than that of PLA/GF (9.8 GPa). Considering all the measurements, the contribution of each phase was analyzed by applying the Hirsch model and the Tsai-Pagano model. As a concluding remark, although the intrinsic tensile modulus of SBHFs was lower than that of GF, the efficiency of those natural fibers as reinforcement (according to the rule of mixtures) was found to be higher ​
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