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Journal of Composite

Materials
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Lignocellulose-based Hybrid Bilayer Laminate Composite: Part I - Studies on Tensile


and Impact Behavior of Oil Palm Fiber-Glass Fiber-reinforced Epoxy Resin
Abu Bakar A. Hariharan and H. P. S. Abdul Khalil
Journal of Composite Materials 2005 39: 663
DOI: 10.1177/0021998305047267
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Lignocellulose-based Hybrid Bilayer


Laminate Composite: Part I Studies on
Tensile and Impact Behavior of Oil Palm
FiberGlass Fiber-reinforced Epoxy Resin
ABU BAKAR A. HARIHARAN*
School of Materials and Mineral Resources
Engineering Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia
14300 Nibong Tebal, Seberang Perai Selatan, Penang, Malaysia

H. P. S. ABDUL KHALIL
School of Industrial Technology, Universiti Sains Malaysia
11800 Penang, Malaysia
(Received January 19, 2004)
(Accepted June 28, 2004)

ABSTRACT: The tensile and impact behavior of the oil palm fiberglass fiber
hybrid bilayer laminate composites are studied. The fiber mats are impregnated with
epoxy resin and cured at 100 C for 1 h followed by post curing at 105 C. The
hybridization of the oil palm fibers with glass fibers increases the tensile strength, the
Youngs modulus, and also the elongation at break of the hybrid composites. A
negative hybrid effect is observed for the tensile strength and Youngs modulus while
a positive hybrid effect was observed for the elongation at break of the hybrid
composites. The impact strength of the hybrid composite increases with the addition
of glass fibers. The hybrid composites which are impacted at the glass fiber layer
exhibit a higher impact strength and a positive hybrid effect compared to those
impacted at the oil palm fiber layer. The scanning electron micrographs and
photomicrographs of tensile and impact fracture samples are taken to study the
failure mechanism and fibermatrix interface adhesion.
KEY WORDS: hybrid composites, lignocellulose-reinforced composites, laminate
composites, oil palm fiber composites.

INTRODUCTION

N RECENT YEARS, the

usage of lignocellulosic fibers or plant fibers as a replacement for


synthetic fibers such as carbon, aramid, and glass fibers in composite materials has

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: azhar@eng.usm.my

Journal of COMPOSITE MATERIALS, Vol. 39, No. 8/2005


0021-9983/05/08 066322 $10.00/0
DOI: 10.1177/0021998305047267
2005 Sage Publications
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gained interest among researchers throughout the world. Extensive studies done on
lignocellulosic fibers such as sisal [1,2], jute [35], pineapple [6,7], banana [8], and oil
palm empty fruit bunch fibers (EFB) [912] show that lignocellulosic fibers have the
potential to be an effective reinforcement in thermoplastics and thermosetting materials.
The renewed interest of lignocellulosic fibers over their synthetic fiber counterpart is that
they are abundant in nature and are also renewable raw materials. Owing to their low
specific gravity, which is about 1.251.50 g/cm3 as compared to glass fibers which is
about 2.6 g/cm3, the lignocellulosic fibers are able to provide a high strength-to-weight
ratio in plastic materials. The usage of lignocellulosic fibers also provide a healthier
working condition than the glass fibers. This is due to the fact that, the glass fiber
dust from the trimming and mounting of glass fiber components causes skin irritation
and respiratory diseases among workers. Besides, the less abrasive nature of the
lignocellulosic fibers when compared to that of glass fibers offers a friendlier processing
environment as the wear of tools could be reduced. Furthermore, lignocellulosic
fibers offer good thermal and insulating properties, are easily recyclable and also
biodegradable. These advantages have gained interest in the automotive industry, where
materials of light weight, high strength-to-weight ratio, and minimum environmental
impact are required. Automotive giants such as Daimler Chrysler use flaxsisal fiber
mat embedded in an epoxy matrix for the door panels of the Mercedes Benz E-class
model. Coconut fibers bonded with natural rubber latex are being used in seats of
the Mercedes Benz A-Class model [13]. The Cambridge Industry (an automotive industry
in Michigan, USA) is making flax fiber-reinforced polypropylene for Freightliner Century
COE C-2 heavy trucks and also rear shelf trim panels of the 2000 model Chevrolet Impala
[14]. Besides the automotive industry, lignocellulosic fiber composites have also found
their application in the building and construction industries such as panels, ceilings,
and partition boards. However, lignocellulose fiber composite products are still
limited to the interior of cars that are not exposed to strong mechanical impacts and
nonstructural components compared to synthetic fiber composites, which are widely
used in high-performance engineering applications such as in the aerospace industry.
This is because lignocellulosic fiber composites have low strength properties such as
impact strength, poor moisture resistance, poor microbial and fire resistance, and low
durability properties.
Therefore, various methods such as physically and chemically pretreating the fibers
were undertaken by researchers in order to enhance the properties of the lignocellulosic
composites. Besides that, hybridizing the lignocellulosic fibers with a stronger and a more
corrosion-resistant synthetic fiber such as glass fiber, can improve significantly
the strength, stiffness, moisture and fire-resistant behavior of the lignocellulosic composite. It has been reported that the addition of glass fibers into sisal [15,16], bamboo
[17,18], coir [19,20], and oil palm fibers [2123] in thermoplastic and thermoset matrices
had drastically improved the mechanical, thermal, moisture absorption, and weathering
properties of the lignocellulosic composites.
Oil palm empty fruit bunch fibers (OPEFB) were used in this research rather than other
lignocellulosic fibers because oil palm trees are abundant and are also an important
commercial plant in Malaysia [24]. The total area of oil palm plantation in Malaysia
is about 3.2 million hectares. The oil palm fruits are processed in mills and crude palm
oil is extracted from them. The oil palm industry in Malaysia produces about 10.5
million tons of crude palm oil per annum and also produces a massive amount of biomass
waste. One of the biomass wastes produced is the empty fruit bunches, which are

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

665

left behind after the removal of oil palm fruits for the oil refining process at the oil
refineries. Based on a report by Tanaka [25], 16 million tons of empty fruit bunches
were discharged per annum from each and every oil palm refinery in the country regularly
in the year 2000. The empty fruit bunches are then used as boiler feedstock in the oil
mill and are also left to mulch and degrade as soil fertilizers in the field, while the majority
of the empty fruit bunches are not utilized, posing a serious environmental threat.
Therefore, by using the oil palm empty fruit bunch fibers, which were extracted from
the empty fruit bunches by Sabutek (M) Sdn. Bhd. (a local company in Malaysia), as
a reinforcement in composite materials, the biomass waste generated by the oil palm
industry can be reduced significantly.
In this work, the mechanical properties of oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid bilayer
laminate composite are studied. Earlier works done on the lignocellulose fiberglass fiber
hybrid composite basically concentrated on the intermingle fiber system [1517,1921,23].
In addition, the lignocellulose-based sandwich composite system was studied by Mohan
and Kishore [26], and Clark and Ansell [27]. Since studies on a bilayer hybrid composite
based on lignocellulose fibersynthetic fiber have not been reported yet, the opportunity
was taken to evaluate and report the tensile and impact properties of the oil palm fiber
glass fiber hybrid bilayer laminate composite, in this paper. Scanning electron micrograph
and images of tensile and impact fractured samples have been taken in order to study the
fracture mechanism of the hybrid bilayer system. The flexural, moisture absorption, and
flammability properties of the hybrid bilayer composite will be reported in a future
publication.

EXPERIMENTAL
Materials
An epoxy resin based on bisphenol A (Clear Epoxy Resin 331) and a polyamide (Epoxy
Hardener A062) were supplied by Euro Chemo-Pharma Sdn. Bhd. Benzyl alcohol was
supplied by Aldrich Company. Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunch Fibers (OPEFB) were
obtained from Sabutek (M) Sdn. Bhd. E-glass-chopped strand mat fibers (GF) were
supplied by Euro Chemo-Pharma Sdn. Bhd.

Preparation of Random Oil Palm Fiber Mat


The empty fruit bunch fibers were washed and cleaned of impurities and dried in an
oven at 80 C for 24 h [20,21]. The equilibrium moisture content of the fibers was about
11%. The dried fibers were then kept in a sealed polyethylene bag to prevent it from
reabsorbing moisture from the environment. In order to prepare a nonwoven fiber mat,
a weighed quantity of fibers were dispersed in a sieve which was placed in a tub of water.
Once the fibers were evenly dispersed and the mat was formed, the sieve was taken out
from the tub. The excess water from the mat was drained out by pressing the mat against a
flat plate. The random fiber mat was subsequently dried in an oven at 80 C for 24 h. The
dried fiber mat was then compacted under pressure at 8000 psi in a compression mold
followed by trimming of the fiber mat edges in order to obtain a uniform shaped fiber mat.

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Preparation of Bilayer Laminate Hybrid Composite


The laminate composite was prepared by following a prepreg route as described by Hill
and Abdul Khalil [10]. A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liner was used for the fiber
mat impregnation process. A schematic diagram of the laminate impregnation process is
shown in Figure 1. One end of the liner was sealed with a tape while the other end was left
open so that the resin could be poured into the liner. A cardboard was placed at the sealed
end of the liner and was connected to a vacuum pump. The cardboard was used to prevent
excess resin from entering the vacuum pump during the impregnation process. The glass
fiber (GF) and the oil palm fiber mats (EFB) were stacked (one on top of the other) and
were placed in the liner. The middle section of the liner was sealed with clips as shown in
Figure 1.
A fixed amount of resin was stirred manually for 10 min in a plastic container using a
glass rod. Table 1 shows the resin formulation used for the impregnation process. The
mixture was then warmed in an oven at 70 C for about 10 min in order to further reduce
the viscosity of the resin. While vacuum was applied to the liner containing the fiber mat,
the resin was poured into the open end of the liner (Figure 1). The clips in the center were
removed and the open end of the liner was closed with the clips thus allowing the resin to
flow and impregnate the mat. Once the mat was completely impregnated, the vacuum
connection was removed and the liner was cut open. The impregnated mat was then
transferred onto a 2-mm thick aluminum plate which was subsequently placed on a hot
press. Spacer bars of 10 mm thickness were placed beside the mat and the mat was
compressed at a constant pressure of 6000 psi while squeezing out the excess resin. The
laminate composite was left to cure at 100 C for 1 h. An open leaky mold method was used
Vacuum pump

Clips

HDPE liner

Middle section
Resin flow

Sealed end

Cardboard

Fiber mat

Open end

Figure 1. A schematic diagram of the laminate impregnation process.

Table 1. Resin formulation used for the impregration process.


Amount
Epoxy resin
Polyamide
Benzyl alcohol

100 phr
30 phr
10 wt.% of total
epoxypolyamide mixture

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

in this research. Once the laminate was cured, the laminate composite was removed from
the plate followed by post curing in an oven at 105 C for 30 min. Finally, the laminate
composite was cooled in a cold press under a constant pressure of 500 psi for 15 min in
order to prevent warpage of the laminate composite. Table 2 shows the formulation for the
hybrid bilayer laminate composite while Figure 2 shows the schematic diagram of the
bilayer hybrid laminate composite. The physical and mechanical properties of epoxy, oil
palm fiber, and glass fiber are given in Table 3.

Mechanical Testings
Tensile testing was performed according to ASTM D638-76. Rectangular strips
(120  20  10 mm3) were cut from the laminate composite followed by milling of the
strips into a dumbbell shape with dimensions of 120  10  10 mm3. The tensile test was
conducted on a Universal Testing Machine Model 1114 at a crosshead speed of 5 mm/min
and gauge length of 60 mm. A minimum of five samples were tested and an average value
was recorded. Unnotched Izod impact test samples with dimensions of 70  15  10 mm3
were cut from the laminate composites. The testing was conducted according to ASTM
D256 on a Zwick model 5101 with a pendulum weight of 25 J. The samples were impacted

Table 2. Hybrid bilayer laminate composite formulation.


Oil palm fiberglass fiber (wt.%)
Bilayer laminate

100/0

90/10

70/30

50/50

30/70

10/90

0/100

Glass fiber plies

Oil palm fiber ply


Figure 2. The schematic diagram of the hybrid bilayer laminate composite.

Table 3. The physical and mechanical properties of epoxy, oil palm fiber, and glass fiber.
Properties
3

Density (g/cm )
Tensile strength (MPa)
Youngs modulus (GPa)
Elongation at break (%)
Impact strength (kJ/m2)
Flexural strength (MPa)
Flexural modulus (GPa)

Epoxy

Oil palm fiber

Glass fiber

1.15
20
7.97
7.35
10.89
78
2.13

0.71.55
100400
19
818

2.56
17003500
6672
3

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A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL

at the glass fiber layer and at the oil palm fiber layer. Five samples were tested (at each
layer) at room temperature and the average value was taken as the Izod impact strength.
The Izod impact strength was calculated using the formula given below :
Impact strength kJ=m2 Impact energy J=Cross  sectional area  103

Fracture Sample Analysis


A scanning electron microscope (SEM), Model Leica Cambridge S-360 was used to
study the fracture surface of the tensile and impact specimens. The specimen was coated
with a thin goldpalladium layer using Sputter Coater Polaron SC 515 to avoid electrical
charge accumulation during examination. The basic shapes of the fiber and the fiber
matrix adhesion were also studied using the SEM. Images of fractured samples from
impact test were also taken using a digital video camera JVC 3-CCD, which was connected
to a computer and was analyzed using an Image Analysis Pro software.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Tensile Properties
Figure 3 shows the stressstrain diagram of the glass fiber composite, oil palm fiber
composite, and hybrid composites. From the stressstrain curve, the deformation behavior
of the composites can be well understood.
120

GF composite
90 wt% GF
10 wt% GF
EFB composite

100

Stress (MPa)

80

60

40

20

3
4
Strain (%)

Figure 3. The tensile stressstrain behavior of glass fiber composite, oil palm fiber composite, and hybrid
composites.

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The stressstrain curve of the composites show a linear elastic behavior until about
0.16% strain followed by a deviation from linearity which is maintained until complete
failure of the composites. The nonlinear behavior of a natural fibersynthetic fiber hybrid
composite was also reported by Thwe et al. [17], Sreekala et al. [21], and Clark and Ansell
[27]. When the load is applied to a fiber-reinforced composite, the difference in stiffness
properties between the fiber and the matrix results in the development of high local stress
and strain concentrations in the matrix [28]. Therefore, in order to prevent the local stress
and strain concentrations from inducing failures in the composite, the stresses are
redistributed in the composite through plastic deformation and microcrack initiation of
the matrix [21,29]. According to Hull and Clyne [30], these phenomena result in the
nonlinear behavior of the composite and are also related to the initiation of composite
failure. The plastic deformation though is caused by the shearing of fibers in the matrix
and also by the inherent ductility of the fiber, especially the oil palm fibers [27].
Besides this, at higher strain levels, the drop in the stressstrain curves indicates
progressive failure of the fibers and propagation of cracks through the matrix while the
end of the curve indicates the ultimate strength of the composite which is due to fiber
pullout and fiber fracture. Extensive fiber pullout was observed not only in the oil palm
fiber composite but also in the oil palm fiber layer of the hybrid composites while fiber
fractures were observed in the glass fiber composite and in the glass fiber layer of the
hybrid composites (Figure 4(a)(e)). The weak interfacial adhesion between the oil palm
fibers and epoxy resin leads to the pullout of fibers from the matrix while the better
adhesion between the glass fibers and epoxy matrix resulted in fiber fracture. Existence of
epoxy matrix adhered on the surface of the glass fibers indicates a perfect adhesion as
shown in the scanning electron micrographs of the tensile fractured surfaces of the
composites (Figure 4(c)).

Tensile Strength
The tensile strength of the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid bilayer laminate composite
as a function of glass fiber loading is shown in Figure 5. As observed from the graph, the
tensile strength of the oil palm fiber composite, which is about 24 MPa, is very much
inferior compared to the glass fiber-reinforced composite which has a tensile strength of
111 MPa.
This is mainly due to the nature of oil palm fibers, which are irregular in shape and size
as seen in the scanning electron micrograph in Figure 6. Furthermore, oil palm fibers also
exist in the form of fiber bundles as shown in Figure 7 [22]. The fiber bundles are
composed of several individual fibers, which are bundled together by a strong pectin
interphase [31].
According to Oksman et al. [2], the load distribution in fiber bundles is not homogeneous because the individual fibers are not loaded uniformly as some individual fibers
are not loaded at all. Therefore, the oil palm fibers are unable to support the stress
transferred from the epoxy matrix successfully. Furthermore, the poor adhesion between
the epoxy matrix and the oil palm fibers, which is evident by the extensive fiber pullout of
the oil palm fibers as shown in Figure 4(a), leads to a weak interfacial bond, resulting in an
inefficient stress transfer between the epoxy matrix and the oil palm fibers. As a result, the
oil palm fiber composite fails at a lower load compared to the glass fiber-reinforced
composite.

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However, with the addition of glass fibers into the oil palm fiber composite, the tensile
strength of the hybrid composites increased significantly as seen from the graph in Figure 5.
A similar trend was reported by Kalaprasad et al. [16,32], Pavithran et al. [20], and Mishra
et al. [15] with the addition of glass fibers into a natural fiber composite. At 0.8 volume
fraction of glass fibers, the tensile strength of the hybrid composite increased by about

Fiber pull out


Fiber pull out

Matrix cracking

(a)

(b)

Fiber fracture

Matrix cracking

Epoxy matrix

(c)
Figure 4. Scanning electron micrographs of the tensile-fractured surface of the oil palm fiber-reinforced
composite. The clean surface of oil palm fibers indicates weak adhesion between the fibers and matrix:
(a) magnification 50 and (b) magnification 500 ; (c) Scanning electron micrograph of the tensile-fractured
surface of the glass fiber-reinforced composite. Epoxy matrix adhered on the surface of glass fibers indicates a
good adhesion between the fibers and matrix (magnification 500); (d) Scanning electron micrograph of the
tensile-fractured surface of the hybrid composite at 90 wt.% loading of glass fibers. The fracture surface of an
oil palm fiber layer (magnification 500); (e) Scanning electron micrograph of the tensile-fractured surface of
the hybrid composite at 90 wt.% loading of glass fibers. The fracture surface of a glass fiber layer
(magnification 500).

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

Matrix cracking

Fiber pull-out

(d)

Matrix cracking

Fiber fracture
(e)
Figure 4. Continued.

263% and exhibited a tensile strength of 87 MPa, which is comparable to the tensile
strength of the glass fiber-reinforced composite.
In a hybrid composite, the mechanical properties are governed by the fiber content,
fiber length, fiber orientation, arrangement of individual fibers, extent of intermingling of
the fibers, and the interfacial adhesion between the fiber and matrix [21,29]. The tensile
failure of a hybrid composite though, is mainly dependent on the breaking strain and
modulus of the individual reinforcing fibers [15,21,33]. Glass fibers are low elongation
fibers with a high modulus whereas oil palm fibers are high elongation fibers with a low

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A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL


140

Tensile strength (MPa)

120
100
Rule of mixture

80
60
40
20
0
0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

Relative volume fraction (Vf) of glass fiber


Figure 5. The effect of glass fiber loading on the tensile strength of the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid bilayer
laminate composite.

Figure 6. The scanning electron micrograph of the cross section of the oil palm fiber composite. Arrows
indicate irregular size and shape of the oil palm fibers (magnification 101).

modulus (Table 1). When the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid composite is subjected to a
tensile load, the glass fibers and the oil palm fibers are uniformly strained and a strain level
is reached corresponding to the failure strain of the glass fibers (smallest failure strain).
A further increase in the strain level results in an early failure of glass fiber plies.

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

Individual fibers

Oil palm fiber


bundle

Figure 7. Scanning electron micrograph of the cross section of the oil palm fiber bundle in epoxy matrix
(magnification 201).

Table 4. Relationship between the relative volume fraction of glass fibers and the number
of glass fiber plies in the bilayer hybrid laminate composite.
Relative volume fraction of glass fibers
Number of plies of glass fibers

0
0

0.1
2

0.2
3

0.4
5

0.5
7

0.8
9

1
10

Sreekala et al. [21] and Mishra et al. [15] who worked on oil palm fiberglass fiber
hybrid and sisalglass fiber hybrid composites respectively, cited that once the glass fibers
fail, the sudden transfer of load to the weak natural fibers would result in the failure of the
natural fibers eventually leading to a catastrophic failure of the hybrid composites.
Nevertheless, in this study which is a hybrid bilayer system, the load from the failed
glass fiber plies is not directly transferred to the oil palm fibers. The failed glass fiber plies
though, are able to continue to carry the load in the laminate and are also capable of
undergoing multiple failures throughout the loading process. This may be due to the
presence of the strong interlaminar bond, which enables the adjoining oil palm fiber ply to
restrain and localize the failure of the glass fiber plies [34]. As the failed glass fiber plies are
still able to carry the load, the oil palm fibers can effectively transfer the load from the
glass fibers without failing catastrophically. As the volume fraction of glass fiber increases
in the hybrid composites, the number of glass fiber plies also increases (Table 4), thus they
are able to withstand a higher load while redistributing a lesser load to the oil palm fibers
resulting in an improved tensile strength of the hybrid composites with the addition of
glass fibers. The increase in the tensile strength of the hybrid composites is also due to the
higher tensile strength of glass fiber than the oil palm fiber (Table 3) [32]. Therefore, it is
well understood that the hybridization of the oil palm fiber composites with glass fibers
enhances the tensile strength of the hybrid composite.
Figure 5 also shows a negative hybrid effect exhibited by the oil palm fiberglass fiber
hybrid bilayer laminate composites. Marom et al. [35] defined a positive or negative hybrid
effect as a positive or negative deviation from the rule of mixture behavior. The condition

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A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL

Oil palm fibers

Glass fibers

Figure 8. Scanning electron micrograph of the cross section of the hybrid composite at 0.8 volume fraction of
glass fibers. The distinct layering of the glass fibers and oil palm fibers can be observed in the cross section of
the hybrid composite (magnification 17).

for positive or negative hybrid effect is mainly influenced by the relative volume fractions
of the individual fibers, the construction of the layers in the hybrid, and the loading
configuration (e.g., translaminar or interlaminar). The rule of mixture predictions is based
upon the weighted average of the characteristic properties of the individual composites
[35,36]. Wagner et al. [36] later stressed that the weighting is proportional to the volume
fraction of the constituents without taking into consideration the internal geometry of the
composite. Furthermore, the rule of mixture predictions as explained by Sreekala et al. [21]
expects a complete intermingling of both the individual fibers in the matrix. Therefore, the
negative deviation from the rule of mixture predictions shown by the bilayer hybrid
laminate composite may be due to the presence of distinct and segregated layers of the oil
palm fibers and glass fibers. This is evident from the cross section of the hybrid composite
shown in Figure 8.

Elongation at Break
Figure 9 shows the effect of elongation at break with the addition of glass fibers in oil
palmglass fiber hybrid bilayer laminate composite. Referring to the graph in the figure, it
is noted that the elongation at break of the oil palm fiber composite is slightly lower than
the glass fiber-reinforced composite.
As the oil palm fibers are high elongation fibers compared to the low elongation glass
fibers, one would expect the oil palm fiber composite to have a higher elongation at break
than the glass fiber composite. However, owing to the low strength nature of the oil palm
fibers and its inability to withstand the load transferred from the epoxy matrix (as
explained in the previous section), the oil palm fiber composite fails catastrophically even
before reaching its actual extensible strain.

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

10

Elongation at break (%)

Rule of mixture

0
0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

Relative volume fraction(Vf) of glass fiber


Figure 9. The effect of glass fiber loading on the elongation at break of the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid
bilayer laminate composite.

As observed from the graph, the hybrid composites exhibited a positive elongation at
break effect with the addition of glass fibers. The positive hybrid effect of the elongation at
break in hybrid composites was also observed by Hayashi [37], Bunsell and Harris [38],
Zweben [33], Sreekala et al. [21], and Krestsis [39]. Zweben [33] concluded that in a hybrid
composite, the addition of high elongation fibers with low elongation fibers often
increased the elongation at break of the hybrid composite than the composite made from
low elongation fibers.
On the other hand, in this bilayer hybrid laminate system, with the addition of glass
fibers the elongation at break of the hybrid composites increased beyond the elongation at
break of the individual composites. This exceptional behavior of the hybrid composites is
due to the existence of a load sharing mechanism between the glass fiber plies and the oil
palm fiber ply. This is because the failed glass fiber plies are able to continue to carry the
load while redistributing the remaining load to the oil palm fiber ply. As the number of
glass fiber plies increases with the increase in the volume fraction of glass fibers, they are
able to withstand a higher applied load while redistributing a lesser load to oil palm fibers.
Thus the oil palm fibers do not fail catastrophically and are able to reach its actual
extensible strain successfully with the addition of glass fibers. As a result, the oil palm
fibers are able to restrain the crack propagation upon fracture of the glass fibers leading to
an increase in the strain level required to propagate the fiber breakage. Zweben [33],
Sreekala et al. [21], Jones and Di Benedetto [40], and Peijs et al. [41], concluded that in a
hybrid fiber composite, fibers with a low modulus and high elongation are able to stop and
deflect the crack at a micromechanical level. Furthermore, the fiber cell arrangement in a
cellulosic fiber is able to divert the crack route by blunting it. This is because when the
crack approaches the fiber cells, it surrounds the cells unable to propagate, and it finally
stops [42]. Therefore, the existence of a synergistic effect between the glass fibers and oil

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A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL

palm fibers and the load sharing mechanism between the glass fiber plies and oil palm fiber
ply enhance the elongation at break of the hybrid bilayer composites.

Youngs Modulus
The incorporation of glass fibers into the oil palm fiber composite increased the stiffness
of the hybrid composites as seen in Figure 10. This behavior agrees well with the work
done by Pavithran et al. [20] and Kalaprasad et al. [16,32] who worked on coirglass fiber
hybrid and sisalglass hybrid composites, respectively. Owing to the weak interfacial
adhesion between the oil palm fibers and epoxy matrix and the weak nature of the oil palm
fibers, the oil palm fiber composite is unable to withstand the applied load transferred
from the epoxy matrix resulting in an inferior stiffness property of oil palm fiber
composite compared to the glass fiber composite [43].
The enhancement in the stiffness of the hybrid composites with the addition of glass
fibers is attributed to the higher tensile modulus of glass fibers which is about 6672 GPa
than that of oil palm fiber which has a tensile modulus of about 19 GPa. Furthermore,
the addition of glass fibers into the oil palm fiber composites increases the load bearing
capability of the hybrid composites resulting in an improved stiffness. This is due to the
efficient stress transfer between the glass fiber plies and oil palm fiber ply, which enables
the hybrid composites to carry a higher tensile load [18,44].
The hybrid composite exhibited a large deviation from the rule of mixture behavior as
observed from the graph in Figure 10. This may be due to the distinct layering of the oil
palm fibers and glass fibers in the epoxy matrix. The effect of layering on the negative
hybrid effect of the Youngs modulus was also observed by Sreekala et al. [21] in oil palm
5.0

Young's modulus (GPa)

4.5
4.0
3.5
3.0

Rule of mixture

2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5
0.0
0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

Relative volume fraction (Vf) of glass fiber


Figure 10. The effect of glass fiber loading on the stiffness of the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid bilayer
composite.

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

fibersglass fiber-reinforced phenolformaldehyde hybrid composites. As the fibers are


not homogenously dispersed in the matrix, the fibers are unable to effectively restrict
the mobility and deformability of the matrix resulting in a negative hybrid effect of the
Youngs modulus. Furthermore, the Youngs modulus of the hybrid composites would
follow the rule of mixture if the fibers act in the same direction with the applied stress and
also if the interphase of the fibermatrix is perfect.

Impact Properties
Figure 11 shows the effect of glass fiber loading on the impact strength of the hybrid
composite. Based on the graph, it is noted that the oil palm fiber composite has a lower
impact strength (18 kJ/m2) than the glass fiber composite (107 kJ/m2).
According to Joseph et al. [8], the impact properties of a fiber-reinforced composite is
influenced by the nature of the constituent materials, interface properties, construction
and geometry of the composite, and also the test conditions. The mode of fracture of the
oil palm fiber composite and the glass fiber composite is shown in Figures 12 and 13. As
the interfacial bonding between the oil palm fibers and the epoxy matrix is weak, fiber
pullout would be expected in the composite [10]. However, scanning electron micrograph
observation of the fractured surface of the oil palm fiber composite showed fiber fracture
as the predominant failure mechanism (Figure 14). As the oil palm fiber composite is
subjected to a high speed impact load, the sudden stress transferred from the matrix to the
fiber exceeds the fiber strength resulting in the fracture of the oil palm fibers at the crack
plane without any fiber pullout. Owing to its low strength nature, irregular cross section,
and the presence of fiber bundles, the oil palm fibers are unable to withstand the high
140

Oil palm fiber layer

Impact strength (KJ/m2)

120

Glass fiber layer

100
Rule of mixture

80
60
40
20
0
0

0.1
0.2
0.4
0.5
0.8
Relative volume fraction (Vf) of glass fiber

Figure 11. The effect of glass fiber loading on the impact strength of the oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid
bilayer composite.

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A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL

Impact load direction

Figure 12. Photomicrograph of the impact fracture sample of the oil palm fiber composite.

Impact load direction

Delamination

Figure 13. Photomicrograph of the impact fracture sample of the glass fiber composite.

transverse load and therefore fractures before reaching its fracture strain. Furthermore, as
the oil palm fibers used are long, they would have flaws distributed along its length. The
flaws would act as stress concentrators resulting in the fracture of the fibers when the load
is transferred onto the fibers [45].
The glass fiber-reinforced composite exhibited extensive delamination between the glass
fiber plies as shown in Figure 13. Glass fibers are capable of absorbing high impact energy
and are also resistant to propagation of microcracks [19,27]. Therefore, as the crack
propagates through a ply in a laminate and reaches the adjacent ply it gets arrested and
branches off and propagates at the fibermatrix interface parallel to the plane of the plies.

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

679

Fiber fracture

Figure 14. Scanning electron micrograph of the impact-fractured surface of the oil palm fiber composite
(magnification 101).

The crack branching produces a large surface area resulting in an increase in the fracture
energy [34].
Agarwal and Broutman [34] also cited that fiber breakages only account for a small
portion of the total energy absorbed in a composite. Park and Jang [46] later stressed that
compared to fiber fracture, delamination failure significantly increases the impact energy
absorption characteristic of the composite. As a result, the glass fiber composite exhibited
a higher impact strength than the oil palm fiber composite.
The hybridization of the glass fibers with the oil palm fiber composite increased the
impact strength of the bilayer hybrid composites significantly as shown in the graph in
Figure 11. At 0.1 volume fraction of glass fibers, the impact strength of the bilayer hybrid
composite increased about 24% when impacted at the oil palm fiber layer while an
increase of 110% was noted when the hybrid was impacted at the glass fiber layer. This is
mainly due to the superior damage tolerance capability and efficient crack resisting
characteristics of the glass fibers compared to the oil palm fibers. Furthermore, with the
increasing number of glass fiber plies as the volume fraction of glass fiber increases in
the hybrid composites, additional impact absorption energy occurs between the glass
fiber plies through extensive delamination, hence increasing the impact resistance of
the hybrid composites. Figure 15(a)(d) shows the impact fractured samples of the hybrid
composites.
The bilayer hybrid composites, which were impacted at the glass fiber layer, exhibited a
positive hybrid effect and also a higher impact strength than those impacted at the oil
palm fiber layer. The impact strength of the hybrid composite at 0.8 volume fraction of
glass fibers is comparable to the impact strength of the glass fiber composite.
Park and Jang [46], who worked on the impact performance of aramid fiber
polyethylene fiber hybrid composite, concluded that in a laminated fiber composite, the
position and volume ratio of each individual fiber in the hybrid composite determine
the impact strength of the composite. When the bilayer hybrid composite was impacted at
the glass fiber layer, the glass fibers were able to resist the high impact load and were also

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680

A. B. A. HARIHARAN AND H. P. S. A. KHALIL

Glass fiber

Oil palm fiber

Oil palm fiber

Glass fiber

(a) Impacted at glass fiber layer

Glass fiber

(b) Impacted at oil palm fiber layer

Glass fiber

Oil palm fiber

Oil palm fiber

Delamination
Restricted delamination
(c) Impacted at glass fiber layer

(d) Impacted at oil palm fiber layer

Figure 15. Photomicrographs of impact-fractured samples of hybrid bilayer composites: (a) and (b) 0.1
volume fraction of glass fibers; (c) and (d) 0.8 volume fraction of glass fibers. Dotted arrow indicates the
impact load direction.

able to absorb a significant amount of impact energy through extensive delamination


between the glass fiber plies as shown in Figure 15(a) and (c). Thus the energy needed to
initiate and propagate the crack increases. Moreover, the delamination at the glass fiber
oil palm fiber layer interface further contributes to the additional impact energy
absorption characteristic of the hybrid composite [46,47]. The absorbed impact energy is
then dissipated to the overall laminate through the fiber breakages in the oil palm fiber ply
(Figure 16(a) and (b)).
However, when the bilayer hybrid composite was impacted at the oil palm fiber layer,
the weak oil palm fibers were unable to withstand and absorb the high impact load
resulting in fiber breakages as shown in Figure 15(b) and (d). The initiated crack
then easily propagates from the impacted surface to the back surface of the hybrid
composite. A further propagation of the crack is restricted by the glass fiber plies. The
glass fiber plies at the back surface of the laminate are unable to delaminate completely

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Lignocellulose-based Laminate Composite: Part I

681

Fiber fracture

(a)

Fiber fracture
(b)
Figure 16. Scanning electron micrographs of the impact fracture surface of the oil palm fiber layer when
impacted at the glass fiber layer. (a) 0.1 volume fraction of glass fiber and (b) 0.8 volume fraction of glass fiber
(magnification 101).

(as clearly seen in Figure 15(d)) owing to the restraint of the adjacent oil palm fiber ply.
Hence, the applied impact load is not dispersed effectively into the overall laminate and
the stresses are localized in the laminate leading to a low impact strength of the hybrid
composite [48].

CONCLUSIONS
From this research it can be concluded that :
. Hybridization of oil palm fibers with glass fibers had improved the tensile and impact
properties of the oil palm fiber composite.

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. Addition of a high volume fraction of glass fibers of about 0.8 enhanced the tensile and
impact properties of the hybrid bilayer laminate composites.
. A negative hybrid effect was observed for the tensile strength and tensile modulus of the
hybrid composite. However, a positive hybrid effect was observed for the elongation at
break of the hybrid composite.
. Glass fibers when placed at the front surface (impacted surface) of the hybrid bilayer
laminate composites offered a better impact resistance compared to oil palm fibers at
the front surface. A positive hybrid effect was also observed when the hybrid
composites were impacted at the glass fiber surface.

The oil palm fiberglass fiber hybrid bilayer composite offered encouraging and
comparable mechanical properties when compared to the glass fiber-reinforced composites. Therefore, through hybridization, the oil palm fiber composite may find applications
as structural materials where higher strength and cost considerations are important
factors.

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