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J. Solid St. Sci. and Technol.

Letters, Vol 12, No 1 & 2 (2005) 1-5
ISSN 0128-8393


Hazleen Anuar, Sahrim Haji Ahmad and Rozaidi Rasid

School of Applied Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia,
43600 Bangi, Selangor Darul Ehsan



Thermoplastic natural rubber composite reinforced kenaf fibers were prepared by melt
blending method in Thermo Haake internal mixer at the ratio of NR:LNR:PP
(20:10:70). Tensile and impact test were employed to study the effect of fiber loading
and addition of maleic anhydride polypropylene, MAPP as coupling agent in various
fiber content from 0-20% by volume. The result from tensile test shows that the
composites with MAPP has higher tensile strength, impact strength and Young’s
modulus, but reduced in strain as compared to the samples without coupling agent.
SEM micrograph of the fracture surface had shown that the addition of MAPP had
improved the fiber-matrix adhesion of TPNR composite.


Newer and advanced materials that benefits economic and environment are being
considered for applications in automotive, construction, furniture and packaging
industries. The use of natural fibers as reinforcement in thermoplastic composites has
received considerable attention among the researcher and manufacturer. Some of the
primary advantages in using natural reinforcement are low density, non-abrasiveness,
biodegradability, low cost, renewable resources, acceptable specific properties, free
from health hazards and CO2 sequesterization [1-7]. In spite of good properties there are
some weaknesses of the ligno-cellulosic fibers. The main limitation is low processing
temperature allowable which is up to 200ºC, thus limit the type of thermoplastic that
can be blend with natural fibers. The second drawback is the high moisture absorption
Thermoplastic natural rubber (TPNR) is a blend of natural rubber with any polyolefin. It
properties lying between rubber and plastic. The advantage of TPNR is it can be
processed using any thermoplastic machinery at comparable prices [15].
The mechanical performance of the composites produced is depending on the
interaction between the fibers and matrix. Generally, natural fibers are incompatibility
with hydrophore polymers, due to high moisture absorption, poor wettability and in the
end leads to insufficient adhesion. Basically, there are two types of treatment in
improving fibers-matrix interphase; either chemical or physical treatment [9-10].

J. Solid St. Sci. and Technol. Letters, Vol 12, No 1 & 2 (2005) 1-5
ISSN 0128-8393

Wettability of fibers and matrix can be improved by chemical treatment, due to
reduction of polar components of their surface energies [16]. Maleic anhydride grafted
polypropylene (MAPP) had been used widely as coupling agent to improve interfacial
bonding between fibers and polymers [1-3, 9-11]. MAPP not only act as a good
dispersant but able to reduce fiber-to-fiber interaction [3].
A study on mechanical properties of kenaf fiber reinforced TPNR has been reported
previously. But in the present work, effects of fiber loading on the tensile and impact
properties of kenaf/TPNR with and without MAPP were reviewed by some
modifications on the processing method. The morphological studies using SEM also
reported in this paper.


Kenaf bast fiber used in this study was obtained from MARDI Serdang. The fibers were
air dried and sieved between 300-500µm. The density of the kenaf fiber is estimated
about 1.13g/cm3. Maleic anhydride graft polypropylene (MAPP) with density 0.950
g/cm3 was supplied by Aldrich Chemical Co., polypropylene (PP) with density
0.905g/cm3 was supplied by Polipropilena (M) Sdn. Bhd., natural rubber (NR) type
SMR-L with density 0.92g/cm3 was supplied by Guthrie Sdn. Bhd., and liquid natural
rubber (LNR) was prepared using thermal degradation photo oxidation technique in our
Thermoplastic natural rubber (TPNR) was prepared via melt blending NR, LNR and PP
in ratio of (20:10:70). The blending was carried out in internal mixer (Thermo Haake
600p) at temperature 180ºC, with 40rpm mixing speed for 12 minutes.
TPNR matrix and kenaf fibers were pre-mixed before disposed in internal mixer using
melt blending method. The fibers composition were varied from 5% - 20% in volume
fraction. The processing temperature was kept at 180ºC at rotor speed of 11rpm for 12
minutes. In the case of addition MAPP, it was pre-mixed together with matrix and the
The tensile strength was measured using Testometric Micro 350 according to ASTM D
638M-91a at crosshead speed of 50mm/min and a gauge length of 70mm. The average
of five samples was recorded. Impact strength was carried out using Ray Ran Pendulum
Impact System according to ASTM D 256-90b. All samples were notched before tested.
The fractured surface of the tensile specimen was examined by scanning electron
microscope model LEO 1450 VP.

J. Solid St. Sci. and Technol. Letters, Vol 12, No 1 & 2 (2005) 1-5
ISSN 0128-8393


TPNR Untreated Kenaf Treated Kenaf
30.0 27.5
24.7 24.9
25.0 23.4
Tensile Strength (MPa)


Elongation (mm)
20.0 21.4 22.1 21.4
21.2 20.0
15.0 6.6

10.0 10.0 6.2
4.8 4.5
5.0 10.9
Untreated Kenaf Treated Kenaf
5.0 6.8 5.4 5.0
0.0 0.0
0%K 5%K 10%K 15%K 20%K 0%K 5%K 10%K 15%K 20%K
Fiber Fraction (% Vf) Fiber Fraction (% Vf)

Figure 1: Tensile strength vs fiber
Figure 3: Elongation vs fiber fraction.

700 50.0
45.0 TPNR Untreated Kenaf Treated Kenaf
600 551
Young's Modulus (MPa)

506 40.0
524 534 35.0

400 449 30.0
Strain (%)

25.0 46.0
315 9.5
15.0 8.8
6.9 6.5
100 Untreated Kenaf Treated Kenaf 10.0 15.6
5.0 9.7 7.7 7.2
0%K 5%K 10%K 15%K 20%K 0.0
Fiber Fraction (% Vf) 0%K 5%K 10%K 15%K 20%K
Fiber Fraction (% Vf)
Figure 2: Young’s modulus vs fiber
fraction. Figure 4: Strain vs fiber fraction.

The strength of the reinforced composites is determined by the fiber-matrix interface
and volume fraction of the fibers. At low fiber loading, the strength of the composites is
dominated by the matrix [13].
Figure 1 shows the tensile strength of the kenaf/TPNR composites. It can be seen the
increasing of fibers loading up to 15% (by volume) has increased the tensile strength for
both treated and untreated composites. However the addition of MAPP in kenaf/TPNR
showed superior tensile strength than untreated ones. The lingo-cellulosic surface
became more hydrophobic with MAPP and has improved compatibility interphase
between fibers-matrix and reduced wetting [11-12]. An improved fiber matrix adhesion
is due to chemical bonds between fiber and matrix provided by the coupling agent [8].
This facilitates efficient stress transfer between fiber and TPNR leading in improving
reinforcing effect.
The effect of MAPP on stiffness is shown in Figure 2. Even both were showing the
increasing trend but the addition of MAPP gave higher values at the same fibers
concentration. The maximum Young’s modulus was obtained at 15% (by volume)
loading for treated ones.

J. Solid St. Sci. and Technol. Letters, Vol 12, No 1 & 2 (2005) 1-5
ISSN 0128-8393

In Figure 3 and Figure 4, the increasing of fibers loading had decreased elongation and
strain compared to TPNR matrix without reinforcement. For both elongation and strain
the values reduced to 84% without MAPP and 86% with MAPP as compared to TPNR

12.0 TPNR Untreated Kenaf Treated Kenaf
5.0 5.3 5.1
Impact Strength (kJ/m²) 10.0


4.0 3.3

3.4 4.4 4.4 4.8 4.5
0%K 5%K 10%K 15%K 20%K 25%K
Fiber Fraction (% Vf)

Figure 5: The effect of fiber loading on Izod impact strength.

Figure 5 shows the Izod impact strength at various fiber contents of the composites.
Impact strength is the measure of toughness, which defined as the ability of materials to
absorbed applied energy [14]. It can be observed that the present of reinforcement had
increased the impact strength for treated and untreated composite. The optimum
strength were obtained at 20% fiber content for both composites, which is improved by
about 76% with MAPP and only 45% without MAPP. With the absent of MAPP, the
impact energy absorbing mechanism is actually the friction at the fiber-matrix interface,
since there is no interaction exists between them [18]. After 20% fibers loading the
reduced trend were seen for both composites.
The improvement in tensile strength and Young’s modulus is demonstrated by
morphological studies.

Figure 6: TPNR/untreated kenaf Figure 7: TPNR/treated kenaf
composite composite

J. Solid St. Sci. and Technol. Letters, Vol 12, No 1 & 2 (2005) 1-5
ISSN 0128-8393

Figure 6.0 shows SEM micrograph kenaf/TPNR without MAPP. The formation of voids
is clearly seen at the end of fiber pull-out. This demonstrates poor fiber-matrix
interphase, whereas in Figure 7.0 the TPNR matrix adhered to kenaf fiber, which gave
better interaction for stress transfer and thus gave higher values for tensile strength as
explained before.


The addition of compatibilizer agent, MAPP in natural fiber reinforced composites has
increased tensile and impact properties. MAPP has enhancing the adhesion and
interfacial between fibers and matrix as can be seen in morphological studies of fiber
pull-out. From this study, the result obtained for both tensile and impact properties were
better than what was reported in the previous work [2].


The author wish to thank to International Islamic University Malaysia, Public Services
Department, 09-02-02-0074 grant under Ministry of Science & Technology and
Yayasan Felda for the financial support in making this study success.


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ISSN 0128-8393

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