Effect of Fungal Deterioration on Physical and Mechanical Properties of Hemp and Flax Natural Fiber Composites Crawford, Bryn; Pakpour, Sepideh; Kazemian, Negin; Klironomos, John; Stoeffler, Karen; Rho, Denis; Denault, Johanne; Milani, Abbas S.
The development and application of bio-sourced composites have been gaining wide attention, yet their deterioration due to the growth of ubiquitous microorganisms during storage/manufacturing/in-service phases is still not fully understood for optimum material selection and design purposes. In this study, samples of non-woven flax fibers, hemp fibers, and mats made of co-mingled randomly-oriented flax or hemp fiber (50%) and polypropylene fiber (50%) were subjected to 28 days of exposure to (i) no water-no fungi, (ii) water only and (iii) water along with the Chaetomium globosum fungus. Biocomposite samples were measured for weight loss over time, to observe the rate of fungal growth and the respiration of cellulose components in the fibers. Tensile testing was conducted to measure mechanical properties of the composite samples under different configurations. Scanning electron microscopy was employed to visualize fungal hyphal growth on the natural fibers, as well as to observe the fracture planes and failure modes of the biocomposite samples. Results showed that fungal growth significantly affects the dry mass as well as the tensile elastic modulus of the tested natural fiber mats and composites, and the effect depends on both the type and the length scale of fibers, as well as the exposure condition and time.
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