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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Treatment of polyethylene fibre for improved fibre to resin adhesion in composite applications Wood, Geoffrey Michael


Tensile properties of polyethylene fibres are shown to be very good in comparison to properties of other advanced composite reinforcing fibres. Nevertheless, the use of polyethylene fibres in polymeric matrix composites suffers due to a poor fibre to resin adhesion. However, its ballistic properties are excellent because of the poor adhesion and also fibre ductility. Applications involving structural use of polyethylene fibres are limited by, among others, the low compressive and shear strengths. These are affected strongly by the degree of adhesion. Improvements in bonding are expected to result in greater commercial appeal for the fibres as the property limitations are reduced. Ultra Violet radiation has been shown previously, in laboratory scale batch studies, to induce graft co-polymerization of monomers to polyethylene films. Improvements in wettability and adhesion result when the grafted polymer is compatible to the bonding medium. In this study the technique was adapted to bench scale, continuous fibre treatment, whereby the monomer was surface grafted to the polyethylene substrate. Acrylic acid monomer was used for this due to its relative safety, small molecular size, and high reactivity. Reaction initiation was provided by use of a benzophenone photosensitizer due to the stability of polyethylene to UV radiation. The reaction was performed by pre-coating the fibres with reactants, then exposure to UV radiation. Results of the continuous process for fibre treatment indicate that the monomer concentration and temperature of the preliminary soakings are key variables. Adhesion improvement was measured by single fibre pullout tests and interlaminar shear strength (ILSS) tests. Of these, the ILSS appeared to be more sensitive for judging small improvements. Tensile tests were used to judge property deterioration due to treatment, and flexural property tests gave a preliminary indication of material behavior. The ILSS showed marked improvement from 1.5 ksi for untreated material to over 5.2 ksi for the better treatments. A competing treatment, plasma, shows ILSS values around 3 ksi. The flexural test indicated that failure of UV-grafted polyethylene was in tension, whereas failure of plasma and untreated material was in compression. The study has proven successful in improving the adhesion of polyethylene fibres to an epoxy resin matrix. Commercial viability is currently being developed through decreased process residence times and irradiation exposures.

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