Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Polymer International 59:7 (July 2010), pp. 884–890; doi: 10.1002/pi.2798 Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry; published by Wiley-Blackwell. Used by permission.


Lightweight composites are preferred for automotive applications due to the weight restrictions and also due to the presence of inherent voids that can enhance the sound absorption of these composites. The density of the reinforcing materials plays a crucial role in such lightweight composites. Milkweed is a unique natural cellulose fiber that has a completely hollow center and low density (0.9 g cm−3) unlike any other natural cellulose fiber. The low density of milkweed fibers will allow the incorporation of higher amounts of fiber per unit weight of a composite, which is expected to lead to lightweight composites with better properties. Polypropylene (PP) composites reinforced with milkweed fibers have much better flexural and tensile properties than similar PP composites reinforced with kenaf fibers. Milkweed fiber-reinforced composites have much higher strength but are stiffer than kenaf fiber-reinforced PP composites. Increasing the proportion of milkweed in the composites from 35 to 50% increases the flexural strength but decreases the tensile strength. The low density of milkweed fibers allows the incorporation of higher amounts of fibers per unit weight of the composites and hence provides better properties compared to composites reinforced with common cellulose fibers with relatively high density. This research shows that low-density reinforcing materials can more efficiently reinforce lightweight composites.