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Enhancing the Interface in Glass Fiber/Epoxy Composites with Nanocellulose



The automotive industry is undergoing a paradigm shift toward the production of “green” vehicles, and its future is dependent on the development of materials that can reduce fuel consumption and be manufactured sustainably. These materials must not only exhibit sufficient strength and durability to meet rigorous safety standards, but they must also be inexpensive to produce so as to reduce cost to the end user. Due to their high strength to weight ratio, short glass fiber polymer matrix composites are the material of preference when it comes to light-weighting. However, their potential is tied to research efforts to improve that ratio while maintaining low costs, which has thus far proven difficult. The key to enhancing their properties is the fiber/matrix interface, which affects the mechanism of load transfer and thus the composite’s overall mechanical properties. A promising method for improving the efficiency of interfacial load transfer involves the introduction of nanoparticles to the fiber surface through coating of the fibers. One example of such nanoparticles is cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), which have high mechanical properties, are renewable, and have the potential for high volume production at low cost. However, tailoring nanomaterials to optimize performance and scaling the coating process still present significant challenges. In this study, we have coated glass fibers with various aqueous dispersions and emulsions of CNC and embedded them in epoxy. Resulting changes to interfacial shear strength were investigated through single fiber fragmentation testing, which revealed that fiber coatings incorporating methyl(triphenyl) phosphoniumfunctionalized nanocellulose provide a statistically significant improvement over commercially-available fiber. The fiber-polymer interactions dictating this improvement were characterized through polarized optical microscopy of tensile coupons, which allowed for the analysis of fracture mode.


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