Assessing the effect of fibre extraction processes on the strength of flax fibre reinforcement

Xuesen Zeng, Sacha J Mooney & Craig J Sturrock

A number of factors impede the direct translation of fibre properties from plant crop species to natural fibre composites. Commercially available fibre extraction processes introduce defects and degrade the mechanical properties of fibres. This study reports on a novel image based approach for investigating the effect of fibre extraction processes on flax fibre bundle strength. X-ray micro Computed Tomography (╬╝CT) was coupled with uniaxial tensile testing to measure the in-situ fibre bundle cross-section area and tensile strength in flax plant stems. The mean tensile strength result was 50% higher than that of the fibres extracted through the standard commercial process. To minimize fibre damage during fibre extraction, a pre-treatment was proposed via saturating flax plant stems in 35% aqueous ammonia solution. By environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), it was evident that ammonia treatment significantly reduced the extent of damage in flax fibre knots and the optimum treatment parameter was identified.

In press in Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing