Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Polymers and the Environment 18 (2010), pp. 464–473; doi: 10.1007/s10924-010-0165-4
Switchgrass (SG) stems with lengths up to 10 cm have been used as reinforcement to make lightweight composites with polypropylene (PP) webs. The long SG stems, with simple cut or split and without chemical treatment, were used directly in the composites. Utilizing SG stems for composites not only increases the values of SG but also provides a green, sustainable and biodegradable material for the composites industry. Lightweight composites are preferred, especially for automotive applications due to the potential saving in energy. In this research, the effects of manufacturing parameters on the properties of composites have been studied. Although the tensile properties of SG stem are significantly worse than jute fiber, SG stem with low bulk density is found to better reinforce the lightweight composites. Compared with the jute-PP composites of the same density (0.47 g/cm3), composites reinforced by the split SG stems have 56% higher flexural strength, 19% higher modulus of elasticity, 15% higher impact resistance, 63% higher Young’s modulus, 52% lower tensile strength, and similar sound absorption property. The SG-PP composites with optimized properties have the potential to be used for industrial applications such as the support layers in automotive interiors, office panels and ceiling tiles.