Enhancement of Properties of a Natural Fiber-Reinforced Composite for Structural Applications

A. Deb, M.R. Karthika, M. Arockiasamy
Indian Institute of Science; Florida Atlantic University,

Keywords: jute polymer composite, hybrid, stiffness and strength, ductility, energy absorption, noise reduction


A natural fiber based polymer composite has the advantage of being more degradable as compared to composites based on purely synthetic such as glass and carbon fibers. The former category of composites also poses reduced health risks during handling, fabrication and usage. In the current study, jute polymer laminates are studied, with the polymeric resin being polyester or epoxy applied layer-by-layer on bi-directionally woven jute plies. Fabrication of flat laminates following the hand layup method combined with compression molding yields a jute polymer composite of satisfactory material stiffness and strength coupled with consistency for mechanical and structural applications. However, as with the case of any reinforced polymer composite, jute polymer composites tend to fail in a brittle manner under applied monotonically increasing loading. Also such composites have a high propensity for moisture absorption which can lead to a degradation in stiffness and strength. In the current study, it is shown that addition of a limited number of plies of a lightweight metal such as an aluminum alloy in a perforated state can lead to a substantive decrease in absorbed moisture with minimum weight penalty thereby aiding the jute polymer composite in retaining the mechanical attributes of design to a substantive degree. Additionally, in tensile material characterization tests of specimens derived from flat (hybrid) jute polymer laminates following a relevant ASTM standard, the stiffness and ductility of the composite are found to increase noticeably. It is shown that the latter enhancement can translate into significant gain in structural performance and energy absorption capability of components made of the considered jute polymer composite. Hybrid laminates are also found to possess superior noise insulation attribute as compared to plain jute polymer plates.