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Recent Developments of Kenaf Fiber Reinforced Thermoset Composites: A Review

By Subramaniasarma Sreenivasan, PhD. Student, University Putra Malaysia

Introduction Kenaf Fibers Fiber Interphase And Modifications Kenaf Thermoset Composites Processing Methods Applications Conclusion

The use of Natural Fibers (NF) have been discovered for a long time. Daily usage items such as rope, baskets, twine and cloth. With the advent of polymers these fibers can be used as reinforcement material to give better quality. Modern fibers are mostly synthetic fibers Commonly Glass fibers have been used as reinforcement material, but glass fibers have some shortcomings.


Kenaf Plants Kenaf Bast Fibers and Cores

Properties Density Cost Renewability Recyclability Energy consumption Distribution CO2 neutral Abrasion to machines

NF Low Low
Yes Yes Low Wide Yes No No Biodegradable

Glass fibers Twice that of NF Low, but higher than NF

No No High Wide No Yes Yes Not Biodegradable

Inhalation Health risk


Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus, L.) is amongst the most widely used NF. There are two types of kenaf fibers, i.e. coarse bast fibers and fine core fibers. Can be grown in a wide range of temperatures. 15 MJ of energy consumed to produce a kg of kenaf fibers and it takes 55 MJ to produce the same amount of glass fibers. Malaysian produced kenaf fibers cost USD 525 / ton in 2010 In the same year E-glass fibers which are the most commonly used and cheapest glass fibers cost almost USD 1630/ ton.

Kenaf Fibers

Kenaf stalk
Apparent Tear Fiber Density Index g/cm3 mN/m2g Tensile Burst Ring Index Index Crush Test N.m/g KPa.m2/g KN/m

Core Bast

0.716 0.502

5.87 20.68

83.09 40.83

6.09 2.16

2.87 1.43

Comparison With Other Fibers

Fibers Flax Hemp Jute Kenaf Ramie Nettle Sisal PALF Oil palm EFB Oil palm mesocarp Cotton Coir E-glass Kevlar Carbon Density (g cm3) 1.5 1.47 1.31.49 1.2-1.45 1.55 Diameter Tensile strength (lm) (MPa) 40600 3451500 25500 690 25200 393800 20-200 930 400938 650 50200 468700 2080 4131627 150500 248 80 1.51.6 1.151.46 2.55 1.44 1.78 1238 100460 <17 57 287800 131220 3400 3000 34004800 Youngs modulus (GPa) 27.6 70 1326.5 53 61.4128 38 9.422 34.582.5 3.2 0.5 5.512.6 46 73 60 240425 Elongation at break (%) 2.73.2 1.6 1.161.5 1.6 1.23.8 1.7 37 1.6 25 17 78 1540 2.5 2.53.7 1.41.8


Fiber Interphase And Modifications

Can be used with thermoset and thermoplastic composites. Kenaf fiber is hydrophilic. Problems with wetting and surface adhesion. Weak composite properties. 2 Main treatments
Chemical treatments Physical treatments

Chemical Treatments
3 common types of treatment
Mercerization - (F)OH+NaOH FO Na+ +H2 O
Changes the polarity of the surface by acting as a bonding/coupling agent.
Cleans the fiber, reduces stiffness and gives a rough surface

Silane (F)OH+RSi()3 (F)OSi()2 R+2 Acetylation (F)OH+3 C(=O)3 (F)OCO3 3 COOH

Stabilizes the cell walls against moisture, improving dimensional stability and environmental degradation.

Physical Treatments
2 common types
Use of partially ionized quasi-neutral gas to chemically and topographically change the surface.

UV and Corona
Increase the surface energy using corona and UV light to promote surface adhesion.

Kenaf Thermoset Composites

Thermoplastic can be heated and melted and reformed again without any loss of properties. Thermosetting materials - or thermosets, are formed by an in situ chemical reaction.
Formed by a mixture of resin and catalyst. A non-reversible chemical reaction occurs to form a hard, infusible product. Most common resins used with natural fibers are polyester (UP), vinyl-ester (VE), and epoxy.

Kenaf Thermoset Composites

Composites Tensile strength, Tensile MPa modulus, GPa Kenaf reinforced UP 20 - 90 4-7 40 -50 4-5 Kenaf reinforced VE Kenaf reinforced 50 - 65 3-5 Epoxy Elongation at break, % 0-2 0-3 1-3 Flexural strength, MPa 40 - 123 60 - 80 70 - 100 Flexural modulus, GPa 4 - 14 3-5 3-5

Optimum fiber content 20%. Reduced fiber diameters, increased fiber length and higher cellulose content means better mechanical properties. Modified resins, better mechanical properties.

Processing Methods Hand Lay Up

Manual method Fiber Fibers are laid up by hand Resin and catalyst is mixed and poured Resin Low fiber loading (up to 30 %)

Cured at room temperature. Curing Poor wetting and strength

Processing Methods Compression Molding

Fibers are laid into the mould cavity or a premix is used. High Fiber loading (up to 60%)


Mould with Core and Cavity. Preheated to 120 -160 C


Mould is closed with pressure and allowed to cure Prevents void and cavities in the final part.

Processing Methods - RTM

Fibers are pre-laid into the mould Pre-dried to prevent air pockets or bubbles


Moulds are closed and preheated after fibers are placed. Resin is then injected into the preheated mould or via vacuum.


Mould is then allowed to cure under pressure. High fiber loading (up to 50%)

Processing Methods - Pultrusion

Fibers are pre-twined to form long continuous strands. Pre-treated fibers to improve adhesion


Resin is premixed and fibers are pulled through a resin dipping. High fiber loading (up to 70%)
The wet fiber are passed through a cross-sectional pre heated die and cured Limited to certain cross-sections


Mostly used in automotive and construction. For automotive, external parts such as bumpers and internal parts such as door panels. Insulation panels and roofs for construction Upcoming research in aeronautics and aerospace. Applications such as sandwiched panels for low load bearing parts.
Vehicle Part Material Used Interior Glove Box Wood/cotton fibers & molded, ax/sisal Door Panels Flax/sisal with thermoset resin Seat Leather/wool backing Coverings Seat Surface Coconut fibers/natural rubber Trunk Panel Cotton fibers Trunk Floor Cotton fibers with PP/PET Insulation Cotton fibers Exterior Floor Panels Flax mat with polypropylene Bumpers Kenaf reinforced bumpers


The possibility to replace almost any traditional composites. Surface properties must be modified to increase and promote better adhesion. Kenafs increasing popularity has been identified as low cost, light weight and low energy consumption. No injection molding of kenaf reinforced thermosets especially pre-preg such as bulk molding compounds.

Thank You
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