Journal article

Alkali-Methanol-Anthraquinone pulping of Miscanthus x giganteus for thermoplastic composite reinforcement

The potential of pulp fiber–reinforced thermoplastics is currently not fully explored in composites. One of the main reasons is that pulp fibers are extracted for the use in papermaking and are thus not optimized for use as reinforcements in thermoplastics. Furthermore, currently used processing methods constitute several severe thermomechanical steps inducing premature degradation of the fibers. A systematic development of these composite materials requires the study of both these aspects. The goal of this work was to optimize fiber extraction against properties relevant to the reinforcement of thermoplastics. To this end, thick-walled Miscanthus x giganteus pulp fibers were selected. The fibers were pulped by the alkaline–methanol– anthraquinone process. An unreplicated factorial design was applied to determine the effect of key operating variables on fiber thermal stability and mechanical properties. The thermomechanical properties of pulp fibers depend primarily on the morphology and chemical composition of the fiber resource in terms of the respective amounts of lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose, all strongly influenced by the choice of pulping conditions. Optimal pulping parameters were identified, allowing production of fibers thermally stable up to 255°C with an aspect ratio of 40, a straightness of 95%, and tensile strength as high as 890 MPa. Specific stiffness and strength values with respect to density and material cost of 56 GPa m.3$.1 and 820 MPa m.3 $.1 were highly competitive with glass fibers, with corresponding values of 15 GPa m.3$.1 and 270–490 MPa m.3 $.1, respectively.


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