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According to Swift D.G. (1981), the main fibers to have been used on a commercial basis

in construction have been steel, alkaline resistant glass, and polypropylene and most especially

asbestos fibers. However, most developing countries do not have indigenous supplies of

asbestos, steel, glass or polypropylene fibers, but do have relatively underused supplies of

inexpensive natural organic fibers with adequate tensile strength for fiber reinforcement.

In recent years, several investigations have been reported on the strength and behavior of

concrete reinforced with natural fibers. The use of natural fibers in making concrete is

recommended since several types of these fibers are available and abundant in different

countries. Natural fibers improve the strength and durability of brittle materials that is why it is

suitable for reinforcing concrete (Sethunarayanan et al, n.d.).

The Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) concrete is a fragile material. It possesses a very

low tensile strength, limited ductility and little resistance to cracking. Internal microcracks are

present in concrete and its poor tensile strength is due to propagation of such microcracks

leading to a brittle fracture of concrete. The expansion of this cracks is the cause of inelastic

deformation in concrete. The addition of small closely spaced and uniformly dispersed fibers to

concrete can act as a crack arrester and improves its static and dynamic properties. This can be

interpreted as the concrete containing fibrous materials which increase its structural performance

(Vajje et al, 2013).

The utilization of natural fibers to improve strength and ductility of fragile materials has

been investigated at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand since the

middle 1970s in the Division of Structural Engineering and Construction. The objective is to use

these fibers as reinforcement for roofing elements, walls, ceilings and other structural elements
for housing in developing countries or as a substitute to existing materials such as asbestos

fibers. The natural fibers studied at AIT are wood fibers, bamboo pulp and bamboo fibers, coir

fibers, bagasse fibers, palm fibers, ramie fibers, jute fibers and sisal fibers and are used as

reinforcement for cement-based composites (Sera et al,1990).

The use of sisal, a natural fiber with enhanced mechanical performance, as reinforcement

in a cement based matrix has shown to be a promising opportunity. This work addresses the

development and advances of strain hardening cement composites using sisal fiber as

reinforcement. Sisal fibers were used as a fabric to reinforce a multi-layer cementitious

composite with a low content of Portland cement. Monotonic direct tensile tests were performed

in the composites. The crack spacing during tension was measured by image analysis and

correlated to strain. Local and global deformation was addressed. To demonstrate the high

performance of the developed composite in long term applications, its resistance to tensile

fatigue cycles was investigated (Silva, 2014).

Munawar et al. (2007) characterized the morphological, physical and mechanical

properties of the non-wood plant fibre bundles (ramie, pineapple, sansevieria, kenaf, abaca, sisal

and coconut fibre). The larger the diameter of the fibre bundles, the lesser will be the density,

tensile strength and the Young’s modulus.


Abaca, also known as Manila Hemp, is a biodegradable and sustainable plant fiber

considered to be one of the strongest among the natural plant fibers available in nature right now.

Comparing abaca fibers with synthetic fibers like nylon and rayon, abaca fibers possess higher
tensile strength and low elongation when exposed to dry and wet conditions (“Uses and

Applications of Abaca Fiber,” n.d.). In addition, abaca fibers have high folding strength,

buoyancy, high porosity, resistance to saltwater damage, and long fibre length up to three meters.

These properties of abaca made it an ideal raw material for a lot of handicraft products seen in

the market today (Vijayalakshmi K. et al, 2014).

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO, 2018), Abaca

is composed of long slim cells that form part of the leaf's supporting structure. Lignin content is

a high 15%. The best grades of abaca are fine, lustrous, light beige in colour and very strong. The

chemical and physical compositions of abaca are compared with other natural fibers below

(Vijayalakshmi K. et al, 2014).

Chemical Abaca Hemp Jute Sisal Linen Cotton

Composition (leaf) (bast) (bast) (leaf) (bast) (seed)

Cellulose 68.32% 77.5% 64% 71.5% 82% 80-90%

Hemi cellulose 19.00% 10% 20% 18.1% 2% 4-6%

Lignin 12-13% 6.8% 13.3% 5.9% 4% 0-1.5%

Moisture content 10-11% 1.8% 1.5% 4% 7.7% 6-8%

Ash content 4.8% 3.9% 1.0% 1% 3.4% 1-1.8%

Physical Abaca Hemp Jute Sisal Linen Cotton


Density (g/cm 1.5 1.48 1.46 1.33 1.4 1.54

Fiber length 2-4 mtr 1-2 mtr 3-3.5 mtr 1 mtr Up to 90 10-65
cm mm

Fiber diameter 150-260 16-50 60-110 100-300 12-60 11-22

microns microns microns microns microns microns

Tensile strength 980 550-900 400-800 600-700 800 400

Elongation 1.1% 1.6% 1.8% 4.3% 2.7-3.5% 3-10%

Moisture regain 5.81% 12% 13.75% 11% 10-12% 8.5%

Young’s 41 30-60 20-25 17-22 50-70 6-10

Modulus (GPa)

Fiber Effect of acids Effect of alkali Ability to dye

Abaca Due to higher lignin content, fiber It is soluble in hot alkali, Abaca fiber shows
has higher inherent acidic content readily oxidized and excellent ability to
and have a higher potential for easily condensable with dyeing without
acidic degradation. It is not phenol any loss of luster
hydrolyzed by acids.

Jute Easily damaged by hot dilute Fibers are damaged by Easy to dyeing.
acids and conc. cold acid. strong alkali. Fibers Basic dye is used
losses weight when it to color jute fiber.
heated with caustic soda.

According to Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA, 2016), abaca

fiber is a widely used versatile plant fiber being converted into several uses and sold in the

worldwide market especially in the country. Some of the uses of abaca fibers are ropes, clothing,

filter cloths, floor mats, tea and coffee bags, reinforcement fibers for plaster, woven fabrics, and

other handicrafts. In addition, abaca fibers are known to be an excellent raw material in the

manufacturing of high-quality papers, hospital textiles (aprons, caps, gloves), electrical

conduction cables, and 200 more finished products (“Uses and Applications of Abaca Fiber,”


Abaca is well recognized as a high potential substitute to glass fibers in various

automotive parts. In 2004, the automaker Daimler-Chrysler has approved the use of Philippine

abaca for the exterior lining of its class A cars, which include the Plymouth and the Mercedes-

Benz. Mercedes Benz has used a mix of polypropylene thermoplastic and abaca yarn in in

replacing glass fibres in the automotive parts. By this, the mixture reduces the weight of
automotive parts and promotes more environmentally friendly production of the parts (FAO,



Due to addition of fibres in the concrete the amount of the plastic shrinkage and

autogenous shrinkage can also be reduced. Amongst the natural fibres, Abaca fibre was chosen

and different experiments were performed to investigate the material properties of Abaca fibres

and their behavior in concrete which is required to develop composites that show strain-

hardening behavior with multiple cracks. The experiments showed that the Abaca fibres have an

elliptical shape. It has a width of 100 - 400 µm and it consists of elongated elementary fibres.

The tensile strength of Abaca fibre is 604 - 1104 MPa and its MOE is 14.92 - 33.61 GPa. Abaca

fibres swell with an average diameter of 11.02% in a humid environment. Furthermore, Abaca

fibres were treated with NaOH, Na2SiO3, C2H4O2, NaOH+C2H4O2 and H2O to reduce its

hydrophilicity. As a result the surface of the Abaca fibres seemed to be damaged, but no fibre

disintegration occurred. The Abaca fibres treated with H2O showed a very high reduction of -

OH groups, while most of the treatments lead to an increase of -OH groups. Due to the treatment,

the Abaca fibres tend to stick to each other. The effect of different treatments on the moisture

absorption of the Abaca fibres was also investigated. Abaca fibres treated with NaOH + C2H4O2

and C2H4O2 exhibited the lowest moisture absorption behavior.

Finally, different mixtures were casted using randomly distributed Abaca fibres to

develop ductile composites and tested under compression and bending. The content of cement

was reduced and replaced with limestone powder. The compressive strength of the specimens
reinforced with Abaca fibres remained the same as unreinforced ones. Under bending test, the

composites reinforced with Abaca fibres (treated and untreated) showed strain-hardening

behavior with multiple cracks, due to increase of paste in the mixture by applying particle size

distribution method. Also, single Abaca fibre pullout tests were conducted, but the results

showed very low interfacial shear strength. Moreover, combined loading (freeze & thaw and

bending) were performed. Under combined loading, the specimens showed strain-softening

behavior. From all of the conducted experiments, it can be concluded that Abaca fibres can be

used as possible reinforcement in cement-based materials (e.g. concrete) to create ductile

composites, although the flexural strength, toughness and ductility is much lower than other fibre

reinforced composites.

Pablo (2011) investigated the possibility of using cellulose fibers namely, abaca and sisal

as oriented reinforcements in the form of meshes in cement-mortar matrices for the improvement

of the overall performance of cement-based composites. He also used Rice Husk Ash as

replacement of a part of the Ordinary Portland Cement to reduce the decomposition of abaca and

sisal fibers due to the alkaline environment of the cement matrix. It was observed that the overall

performance of the cement-based composites significantly improved.

Pablo, R. M., Jr. (2011). Natural Organic Fiber Meshes as Reinforcements in Cement Mortar
Matrix. IAJC-ASEE International Joint Conference Natural Organic Fiber Meshes as
Reinforcements in Cement Mortar Matrix.

Coutts and Warden (1987) studied the flexural strength and fracture properties of air-

cured cement reinforced with abaca fibers. It was obtained in the experiment the following

values: fiber loadings of approximately 8% by mass, flexural strengths of 27 MPa, and fracture

toughness values of approximately 2 kJ/ m2. According to them, although abaca fibers have a
high aspect ratio (approximately 400), they were found to be not superior as a reinforcing fiber to

readily available P. radiat fibers already used in cement as an alternative to asbestos


Coutts, R. P., & Warden, P. G. (1987). Air-Cured Abaca Reinforced Cement

Composites. International Journal of Cement Composites and Lightweight Concrete,9(2), 69-73.


Delicano (2017) characterized abaca as a reinforcing material for aerospace composite materials.

He explored the properties and applications of abaca reinforced composites. The study revealed

that abaca fiber pre-treatment helps in improving the mechanical properties of the composite.

The addition of abaca fibers to existing synthetic composites improves its mechanical properties

and environmental performance. In conclusion, abaca is one of the potent sources of reinforcing

fiber for various material construction including aerospace materials.

Delicano, J. A. (2018). A Review on Abaca Fiber Reinforced Composites. Composite

Malenab et al. (2017) investigated the potential of waste abaca fiber as reinforcing agent in an

inorganic aluminosilicate material known as geopolymer. In the study, the waste fibers were

subjected to different chemical treatments for the modification of the surface characteristics and

to enhance the adhesion with the fly ash-based geopolymer matrix. The factors considered in the

chemical treatment were NaOH pretreatment; soaking time in aluminum salt solution; and final

pH of the slurry. After the experiment, the abaca fiber soaked for 12 hours in Al2(SO4)3 solution

and adjusted to pH 6 without alkali pretreatment showed the highest tensile strength among the

treated fibers. The specific test removed the lignin, pectin, and hemicellulose, and makes the

surface rougher which improves the interfacial bonding of abaca fibers to the geopolymer matrix.

Malenab, R. J., Ngo, J. S., & Promentilla, M. B. (2017). Chemical Treatment of Waste Abaca for
Natural Fiber-Reinforced Geopolymer Composite. Materials (Basel),10(6).

Literature Cited

Kiron, M. I. (Ed.). (n.d.). Abaca Fiber (Manila Hemp) | Uses/Application of Abaca Fiber.
Retrieved August 21, 2018, from
Vijayalakshmi, K., Kavitha, A., Hayavadana, J., & Neeraja, C. (2014). Abaca Fibre.
Transactions on Engineering and Sciences,2(9). Retrieved August 21, 2018, from

Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority. (2016). Philippine Abaca helps in global
environment conservation. Retrieved from

Wholesale Tarp. (n.d.). The Anatomy of a Polyethylene Tarp. Retrieved from

Prescient & Strategic (P&S) Intelligence. (n.d.). Global Plastic Tarpaulin Market Size, Share,
Development, Growth and Demand Forecast to 2023. Retrieved from

Sethunarayanan, R., Chockalingam, S., & Ramanathan, R. (2013). Natural Fiber Reinforced
Concrete. Transportation Research Record 1226. Retrieved from

Swift D.G. (1981) The Use of Natural Organic Fibres in Cement: Some Structural
Considerations. In: Marshall I.H. (eds) Composite Structures. Springer, Dordrecht

Vajje, S., & Murthy, K. (2013). Study On Addition Of The Natural Fibers Into Concrete.
International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research,2(11). Retrieved from

Sera, E. E., Pama, R. P., & Robles-Austriaco, L. (1990). Natural Fibers as

Reinforcement. Journal of Ferrocement,20(2). Retrieved from

Silva, F., Mobasher, B., & Filho, R. (2014). Advances in Natural Fiber Cement Composites: A
Material for the Sustainable Construction Industry. 4th Colloquium on Textile Reinforced
Structures (CTRS4).

Munawar SS, Umemura K, Kawai S (2007). Characterization of the Morphological, Physical,

and Mechanical Properties of Seven Nonwood Plant Fibre Bundles. J. Wood Sci., 53(2): 108-
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