Applied Composite Materials 9: 369–377, 2002. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

369

Mechanical Properties of Date Palm Fiber Reinforced Composites
FALEH A. AL-SULAIMAN
Mechanical Engineering Department, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, 31261 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Received 5 July 2001; accepted 19 October 2001) Abstract. Mechanical properties of several laminates of date palm leave (DPL) reinforced composites are investigated. Three different processes to construct these composite laminates are assessed. These are wet lay-up with simple vacuum bagging, autoclaving with vacuum bagging and Vulcan press moulding. Several fiber orientation and dimensions are tested. Two types of resins are selected. The first is a high temperature curing Phenolic (phenol formaldehyde) resin. The second is a two-component Bisphenol resin with amine-based slow curing agent. The average tensile strength ranged between 127.4 and 152.3 MPa for long unidirectional fibers and 8.4 to 62.6 MPa for short and medium length fibers respectively (depending on process and resin type). The Bisphenol laminates have better mechanical properties. These laminates have consistently 25 to 50% higher tensile strength than Phenolic laminates. The bending strength ranged between 120.6 and 342.3 MPa (at 500 mm/min loading speed) depending on fiber length. Short fiber Bisphenol laminates have excellent fatigue life characteristics (over 466,000 and 653,000 cycles at 70% and 60% of maximum stress loads respectively). The process parameters and resin types have significant effects on the laminate properties. The water absorption of the laminates ranged between 2.3 to 5.8% for the Phenolic laminates (depending on the test method and manufacturing process used). The water absorption of Bisphenol laminates ranged between 10 and 40%. The produced laminates were very stable to handle all required machining processes as construction panels. They were successfully subjected to several machining processes such as milling, end milling, hack sawing and drilling.

1. Introduction The abundance of date palm fronds (DPF) and date palm leaves (DPL) in the Middle East and North Africa presents an exciting opportunity to develop a low cost construction material. Approximately 100,000 tons of DPF and 15,000 tons of DPL are produced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone. Worldwide, an estimated 1,130,000 tons of DPF are produced annually. DPF have been reported to exhibit high resistance to alkaline and acid attack [1]. Raffle palm stem fibers used in concrete mix did not degrade after 36 months [2]. The specific strength of DPL is reported to be higher than many aluminum alloys [3]. The scope of this paper is to evaluate the possibility of producing laminates of DPL fibers and investigate the different aspects of composite fabrication such as the suitable resin types, fiber orientation and processing parameters. The relevant

there is a need to determine the mechanical properties of the DPL fibers. The trees look almost identical except for minute variations in the leave textures.4 4. Selection of DPL Fiber Due to the variety of date palm trees. These types were hand cleaned.0 2. This level is reported to produce the best mechanical properties [3]. cut to proper size.24 1.5 4. Thus in the outset of this work there is a need to determine if there are significant variations in the mechanical properties of DPL types. there are literally hundreds of date palm types.2 4. Qatif and Al-Ahsa. To start this task. A.18 1.6 . weighed and stored at 23◦ C ± 1 and 30% ± 10% relative humidity. straight-sided flat specimen. a selection of eight common types was done.e.25 1. [3] and [4].4 4. AL-SULAIMAN mechanical properties of the produced laminates are studied.7 3. milling. However.08 1. Mechanical properties of various date palm leaves common in the Arabian peninsula (dry leaves <30% moisture content). This defines a tabbed. size and color of the dates produced.5 3.22 1. i. The tensile Table I. The basic mechanical properties of the DPL fibers were the subject of many investigations.2 4.0 5. the shape. hack sawing and drilling.8 4.12 gravity 97 100 90 196 130 105 185 135 44 3.18 . end milling.23 1.5 strain (MPa) Young’s 4. No reference is found in literature regarding the variation of the mechanical properties of different types of date palm leaves. The suitability of using these composites as construction panels is also assessed through subjecting the laminates to typical machining operations including sawing.06 . Berhi Ghurra Hojub Khlas Khusab Megnas Shishi Male Average Std Tensile 176 strength (MPa) Tensile 4. Samples of each type were collected from Riyadh.17 1.8 Modulus (GPa) Specific 1. The leaves were monitored until the moisture content reaches 40% loss of weight (as compared to the weight of fresh leave).1 3.6 1.370 F. Minimums of 10 specimens were prepared for each type of DPL according to ASTM D3039 [5].5 5.8 3. The main selection criteria were the abundance of the type and the variation of the geographical location.6 . 2. Table I summarizes the results of these tests.1 3.0 5. The mechanical properties vary significantly.

• Fiber orientation and dimension are obviously have major effects on the laminate properties. white 2121 grade (6) Redwood. Several ratios were initially experimented with. the average properties far exceed those of common construction material. Composite Panel Production Several aspects of composite production were addressed.5–4.7 strength was between 97 and 196 MPa with an average of 135 ± 44 MPa.72 5. 2. price. Three choices of fiber orientation were chosen.5 and 5. Several initial screening tests were performed on full and shredded leaves (∼3 mm long. This included: • Choice of appropriate resins based on the adhesion force. . 0. Material Ash. Unidirectional fibers with longitudinally shredded leaves (1∼1.4 GPa with an average of 4. The Young’s modulus of elasticity varied between 2.5 mm wide).5 140–620 340–2100 97–196 Young modulus (GPa) 10. The second is a two-component Bisphenol resin with amine-based slow curing agent curing at room temperature. 3.34 8. dense structure Pressed wood Aluminum alloys Steel Palm leaves Tensile strength (MPa) 14. However. to autoclaving at 8 bar or Vulcan press at 23 to 32 bar or higher (depending on the mould size). Mechanical properties of selected construction materials. Several layers of unidirectional full leaves stacked at 3(0◦ /90◦ ). These are: 1. The mechanical properties of the resins are shown in Table III.27 2–10 70 210 2.6 GPa. The types of selected resins dictate the processing temperature.8∼0. Table II.95 bar. The first is a Phenolic (Phenol formaldehyde) resin requiring about 150◦ C to cure. These are approximately 69 : 31 corresponding to a mass ratio of 65 : 35 for the Phenolic resin and 81 : 19 corresponding to a mass ratio of 75 : 25 for Bisphenol resin.82 11.3–16. • Required processing parameters. and suitability. Two types of resins were found to perform reasonably well. • Fibers to resin ratio can be controlled within limited range. The leaves are 12∼15 mm wide and 300 mm long.5 mm wide and 300 mm long).6 ± 0.MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF DATE PALM FIBER REINFORCED COMPOSITES 371 Table II. The choices that produced the most structurally stable composites were then selected. however the processing pressure could range from simple vacuum bagging at 0.

This could mean any one or more of the following defects: • Non-binding of the fiber to the resin. fiber size and resin type.5–2.0 Table IV. Table IV shows the results of the trials for each resin type using the chosen fiber sizes and processes. Short randomly distributed fibers (mean length ∼1 mm and ∼3 mm with 5 mm width). The mark denotes a laminate with good mechanical structure and integrity. AL-SULAIMAN Table III. Fiber orientation and size Phenolic Bisphenol Vacuum autoclave Vulcan press Vacuum autoclave Vulcan press X X √ √ √ X X √ √ X √ √ Layers stacked X X at 0/90 Unidirectional X X (1∼1.5 mm wide) √ Short fibers X (3 mm long) √ = accepted mechanical integrity.3 Phenolic formaldehyde 1.7–5. 4. X = unacceptable mechanical integrity.32 76–117 34–62 1. The resulting panels are 25 mm square for one mould and a rectangular 25 mm wide and 30 mm long for the second. Mechanical Stability of the Resulting Composite Panels The production of the samples faced several difficulties. A. 3. Quality of produced DPL fiber reinforced composites. Two steel moulds were designed and manufactured to produce composite laminates with thickness ranging from 2 to 8 mm. The mark (X) indicates a laminate with unacceptable mechanical integrity.24–1. • Deep delaminating of composite at the edges due to saw cutting. .372 F. Mechanical property Density (g/cm3) Flexural strength (MPa) Tensile strength (MPa) Elongation at break (%) Bisphenol 1.15 110–115 73–79 4. The results indicate that the suitability of the process is highly dependent on the √ processing pressure. Mechanical properties of resins selected in DPL reinforced composites. end milling or other specimen preparation processes.

Mechanical properties of DPL fiber reinforced composites. end and surface milling.2 MPa (depending on the process pressure and the resin type).2 60.4 11.5 18. TENSILE TEST Tabbed specimen 150 mm by 25 were used with a 50 mm gage section.7 14. The laminates with acceptable mechanical integrity were then prepared for mechanical testing. randomly distributed laminates have strength of 28.8 24.5 50.8 32 Bar 152.8 Phenolic (MPa) 23 Bar – 11. drilling and filing was performed. according to ASTM 3039 [5].5 mm long) Short fibers (3.5 and 3 mm randomly distributed fibers have much lower strength.4 and 19.MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF DATE PALM FIBER REINFORCED COMPOSITES 373 • Existence of many visible imperfections (voids) that are deep and nonremovable by surface smoothing processes such as sanding. The results indicate that the unidirectional fiber laminates. The Phenolic laminates have tensile strength of 8.3 28.3 14. 1.2 19. Characterization of the Mechanical Properties Specimens were machined to precise dimensions and used for each of the following tests: 5. All of the laminates had surface finish remarkably superior to wood. with Bisphenol have tensile strength of 127.3 MPa respectively.1 23.4 13.4 MPa (at 8 Bar processing pressure) and 152.5 mm wide) Short fibers (1.4 MPa for the 1.7 MPa (at 32 Bar). Figure 1 shows the effect of fiber length on laminate strength at 23 Bar.1 8 Bar 127. For each composite laminate.3 to 16.7 42. milling or polishing.6 .5 and 3 mm fibers respectively while the Bisphenol laminates have strength of 11.7 32 Bar – 12.1.8 to 62. The results are summarized in Table V. hack sawing.4 44.1 Bisphenol (MPa) 23 Bar 150. The medium length fibers (30 mm). Fiber orientation and size 8 Bar Unidirectional (300 mm long. These laminates exhibit better strength than pressed wood (5.5 MPa). 5.3 17. Table V.3 and 24.3 62.0 mm long) Short fibers (30 mm long) – 8. The 1. made of Khusab DPI.

endured over 465. The Phenolic laminates have higher bending strength than the Bisphenol ones. Moisture Absorption This is considered a principle concern in construction panel applications.2. 50 and 500 mm/min loading speeds).000 cycles at 70% and 60% of the maximum load. Moreover. The results indicate high influence of the loading speed on the bending strength. the fiber length is found to be directly proportional to the bending strength.374 F. Six square test specimens (50 ± 1 mm) from each laminate were machined to uniform thick- . 5. The cycle life at different loading factors is depicted in Figure 2. The effect of fiber length on laminate strength. The specimens. AL-SULAIMAN Figure 1.3. The results indicate that the laminates performed exceptionally well. A.000 and 653. FATIGUE TEST Cyclic loading tests for selected Bisphenol specimens at different loading conditions and speed were performed according to ASTM D 3039. BENDING TEST Specimens were tested in a three point bending configuration according to ASTM D 1037 [6]. 6. on the average. 5. The results are shown in Figure 3 for selected short fiber randomly distributed laminates (tested at 5.

. The cyclic loading of bisphenol laminate (3 mm fiber). The bending stress of DPL laminates at different loading speeds. Figure 3.MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF DATE PALM FIBER REINFORCED COMPOSITES 375 Figure 2.

Material Bisphenol (short fiber) Bisphenol (medium fiber) Bisphenol (long fiber) Phenolic (short fiber) Phenolic (medium fiber) Phenolic (pure) Phenolic-formaldehyde Method 1 ISO/R62 (%) 15 23 40 3.9 F. The quality of the composite panel fabrication varies with the choice of process.1 ness of 4 mm.376 Table VI. The low-pressure processes proved to be inadequate for quality laminates. Then the surface water is removed and the samples are weighed. Long fibers result in reduced binding. which softens the fibers and lowers the viscosity of the resin. In both methods.3 and 5. however. In the second method (method 3). The water absorption of the laminates ranged between 2.8% for the Phenolic laminates (depending on the test method and manufacturing process used). The surface water is removed and the specimens weighed.5 0. Two methods for the determination of the mass of absorbed water were selected according to ISO 62-1980 (E) [8]. In the first method (method 1). The wetting of the fiber surface is also enhanced by the high process temperature. Water Absorption of DPL fiber reinforced composites. This is probably due to the naturally poor binding between the DPL fiber and this resin. The Phenolic (phenol formaldehyde) resin is suitable for short fibers only. A minimum of 8 Bar is needed to produce usable laminates. the specimens are immersed in distilled water (at 23 ± 0. The water absorption of Bisphenol laminates ranged between 10 and 40%. demonstrated better binding property. The surface area of the fibers is also significantly increased resulting in a better binding.5 5.8 0. on the other hand. the specimens are immersed in boiling distilled water for 30 ± 1 min and then allowed to cool for 15 ± 1 min in water at ambient temperature.1 2. The short fibers.2 1.3 11 2. AL-SULAIMAN Method 3 ISO/R117 (%) 10 10. Table VI shows the results of the two methods. 7.3 2. break the continuity of the fibers and void the need to bind extended fiber surfaces. three specimens are dried in the oven at 50 ± 2◦ C for 24 ± 1 h. Discussion and Conclusion Several Panels of date palm leave (DPL) reinforced composites were successfully constructed using autoclaving technique with vacuum bagging or press moulds with controlled temperature. The higher resin content closes the porosities of the fibers more effectively. A.5◦ C) for 24 ± 1 h. The Bisphenol. The fiber . The lower absorption of the Phenolic laminates can be attributed to the higher fiber to resin ratio (65 : 35 of the Phenolic compared to 75 : 25 mass wise of the Bisphenol).

F.MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF DATE PALM FIBER REINFORCED COMPOSITES 377 length has significant effect on the laminate properties. et al. Long fibers laminates (300 mm) have an order of magnitude higher strength than wood. 1998. ‘Mechanical Properties of Date Palm Leaves’.. KACST ARP-6-141. References 1. ASTM Standard D 3039-76 (Re-approved 1982). ‘Determination of Water Absorption’ ISO 62-1980 (E). These panels are well suited as insulation and construction panels for indoor and outdoor usage. 162–167. Geneva. 1988. American Society of Testing and Materials. 3. 158–164. Philadelphia. Pennsylvania. the bending stress is lowest at a loading speed of 50 mm/min. The Phenolic laminates offer a better choice of outdoor material than the Bisphenol ones. Development of New Building Material Using Date Palm Fronds. The average tensile strength reached a maximum of 152. Jurf. ASTM Standard D 1037.. Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites 19(17). Switzerland. 7. 6. 5. J. USA. The International Organization of Standards.3 and 62. Philadelphia.5∼3 mm) laminates have better strength than wood. Journal of Thermal Insulation 11. O. Final Report.8% for the Phenolic laminates (depending on the test method and manufacturing process used). ‘Standard Test Method for Tensile Properties of Fiber-Resin Composites’. The bending strength is directionally proportional to the fiber length (for all loading speeds). Short fiber (1. For the 1. Al-Jurf. Medium long fiber laminates (30 mm) exhibit 3 to 4 times the strength of wood. It may give a hint to the possible crack propagation dynamics of the brittle failure modes observed in all tested specimens.6 MPa for short and medium length fibers respectively (depending on process and resin type). 4. et al. Al-Sulaiman. 2000.3 to 5. . ‘Characteristics of Akwara as a Reinforced Fiber’. The water absorption of the laminates ranges between 2.. ‘Development of Heat Insulation Material Using Date Palm Leaves’.3 MPa for long unidirectional fibers and 24. It has a tensile strength comparable to commercial Aluminum. A. Uzomaka. This interesting observation is true for both types of resins. ‘Evaluating Properties of Wood-based Fiber and Particle Panel Material’. Acknowledgment The author acknowledges the efforts of A. The water absorption of Bisphenol laminates ranges between 10 and 40%. Magazine of Concrete Research 28(6). 1976. The Bisphenol laminates have better mechanical properties. These laminates have consistently 25 to 50% higher tensile strength than Phenolic laminates.. American Society of Testing and Materials. USA. Pennsylvania. The long durability of the specimens at relatively high loading stresses is an indication of a good potential for durable construction material. Al-Ahmari for helping in sample preparations and measurements. Al-Dhukair and S. 2. The produced laminates are very stable to handle all required machining processes as construction panels.5 mm fiber laminates.

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