Sustainable cellular biocomposites from natural fibers and unsaturated polyester resin for housing panel applications

Geeta Mehta

Associate Professor

mehtagee@umich.edu

3044 NCRC, Building 28

T: (734) 763-3957

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R Burgueno, M Quagliata, GM Mehta, AK Mohanty, M Misra, and LT Drzal (2005)

JOURNAL OF POLYMERS AND THE ENVIRONMENT, 13(2):139-149.

Increased environmental awareness and interest in long-termsustainability of material resources has motivated considerableadvancements in composite materials made from natural fibers and resins,or biocomposites. In spite of these developments the lower stiffness andstrength of biocomposites has limited their applications tonon-load-bearing components. This paper presents an overview of a studyaimed at showing that the shortcomings of biocomposites can be overcomethrough hybrid material designs and efficient structural con. gurationsto make them suitable for load bearing structural components. Hybridblends of natural and synthetic fibers can significantly improve thecharacteristics of biocomposites with minimal cost and environmentalimpact, and hierarchical cellular designs can maximize materialefficiency in structural components. Periodic and hierarchical cellularplate designs made from natural fibers and unsaturated polyester resinwere evaluated experimentally and analytically. Stiffness, strength, anddimensional stability of all-biocomposite and hybrid natural-syntheticmaterial systems were evaluated through material tests while structuralperformance of cellular plate designs was assessed through flexuraltests on laboratory- scale samples. The experimental results werecorrelated with analytical models for short-fiber composites andcellular structures. The results showed that biocomposites have adequateshort-term performance and that they can efficiently compete withhousing panels made from conventional structural materials.

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