The sensitivity of mechanical properties of flax fibre reinforced poly(lactic acid) bio-composites to wet, freezing and humid environments
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Bio-composites are increasingly being perceived as a green alternative to synthetic composites in many applications. However, the overall long-term durability of bio-composites is a major concern, particularly their ability for sustained performance under harsh and changing environmental conditions. This paper reports a detailed study on the effect of environmental conditions on the performance of flax/poly(lactic acid) bio-composites. Neat poly(lactic acid) and biocomposite samples were exposed to environments similar to those found outdoors: wet, freezing and humid. Moisture absorption and physical changes of specimens were periodically examined. Flexural and tensile properties were evaluated periodically to determine the detrimental effect of each exposure condition on the mechanical performance of biocomposites. Direct contact with liquid water is the most deteriorating environment for bio-composites. A drying process can partially restore the mechanical performance of these materials. Bio-composites can survive reliably in warm humid environments and in those that could create freeze and thaw cycles for short-term outdoor applications. The mechanisms and reasons involved in the degradation of the properties of green composites are discussed.
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