Novel cattail fiber composites: converting waste biomass into reinforcement for composites
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Abstract Vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM), used in manufacturing medium to large-sized composites for transportation industries, requires non-woven mats. While non-woven glass mats used in these applications are optimized for resin impregnation and properties, such optimized mats for natural fibers are not available. In the current research, cattail fibers were extracted from plants (18–30% yield) using alkali retting and non-woven cattail fiber mat was manufactured. The extracted fibers exhibited a normal distribution in diameter (davg. = 32.1 µm); the modulus and strength varied inversely with diameter, and their average values were 19.1 GPa and 172.3 MPa, respectively. The cattail fiber composites were manufactured using non-woven mats, Stypol polyester resin, VARTM pressure (101 kPa) and compression molding pressures (260 and 560 kPa) and tested. Out-of-plane permeability changed with the fiber volume fraction (Vf) of the mats, which was influenced by areal density, thickness, and fiber packing in the mat. The cattail fibers reinforced the Stypol resin significantly. The modulus and the strength increased with consolidation pressures due to the increase in Vf, with maximum values of 7.4 GPa and 48 MPa, respectively, demonstrating the utility of cattail fibers from waste biomass as reinforcements.