Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi researchers have developed thermoplastic fibre reinforced composites using jute and kenaf fibres through a simple process of 'Microwave Curing'. An IIT Mandi team lead by Dr. Sunny Zafar, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi, and his research student Manoj Kumar Singh has developed this and their research paper titled 'Development and mechanical characterization of microwave-cured thermoplastic based natural fibre reinforced composites' has recently been published in the Journal of Thermoplastic Composite Materials.
Speaking about his Research, Dr. Sunny Zafar said, "The fibre reinforcement holds the polymer matrix together, thereby enhancing the properties of the composite."
"Microwave energy is known for its fast heating rates, as we know from our kitchen ovens. Microwave has been shown to result in improved properties of the processed products in laboratories, as well", he adds.
The fibre-reinforced composite materials are ubiquitous today and are used in applications ranging from aerospace systems to automotive, industrial, and consumer products.
Speaking on the relevance of their work in the Indian context, Mr Singh said, "Thermoplastic-based natural fibre-reinforced composites undoubtedly offer advantages like biodegradability and reduction in greenhouse emissions but the greater incentive for developing such FRPs in India is the availability of variety of fibres, possibility of job creation in rural areas, low energy utilization and consumption and low cost."
Dr. Zafar used microwave energy to produce thermoplastic polymers such as polyethylene and polypropylene that were reinforced with jute and kenaf fibres.
They first pre-treated the fibres to improve their wettability by the polymer, mixed them with the polymers and subjected the mix to microwave radiation. The composites formed were similar to those obtained by conventional processes.
The researchers also elucidated the mechanism of microwave-induced curing and analysed the properties of the composites by methods such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and mechanical properties assessment using the Universal Testing Machine (UTM), according to a statement from IIT Mandi.
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