Materials derived from renewable resources have increasing interest today since they can help reduce our dependence on petrochemical based materials. With any new composite material system, understanding the properties as a function of matrix resin structure and composition as well as fiber type, surface functionalization, and fiber loading is critical. Thus, the focus of the project is to understand the impact of critical design variables on performance of composites using a new biobased resin system in combination with natural fibers as reinforcement. Preliminary experiments using this new resin system along with natural fibers have shown that the composites have promising structural properties and can lead to a biobased composite system with high biocontent, 60% or greater. Structure-property studies of the matrix resin system will be carried out to understand the impact of variables such as epoxy functionality, anhydride crosslinker, catalyst and loading, and curing conditions on properties such as modulus, impact resistance, glass transition temperature, thermal stability, water sorption, and durability. Composites with glass fiber reinforcement along with natural fibers will be prepared and the effect of fiber treatment, fiber loading on the properties will be evaluated. The durability of the matrix resin and resulting composite systems will be explored. Structure-process-property relationships will be established for the biocomposites produced with regards to durability for use as a structural construction grade material.
The use of materials derived largely from agricultural products is a key component of a sustainable future and can lead to a reduction of dependence on petrochemical derived materials, reduced energy usage, and a reduction in carbon emissions. The scientific results of this project can lead to the development of a new biobased structural composite material system meeting the goals of sustainability as well as the performance requirements for structural applications. The focus of the project is to understand the influence of each component of the biobased composite system (resin, fiber, and resin-fiber interface) on important properties of the composite as they relate to structural performance and durability.