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Use of Malaysian Foxtail Grass as Natural/ Agro Fibre for Polymer

Composites Panel

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C.M. Ruzaidi, A.Z. Nur Hidayah, A. Mohd Mustafa Al Bakri, H. Kamarudin,
A. Radzi, * M.N. Norazian,

School of Material Engineering,


Universiti Malaysia Perlis
P.O Box 77, d/a Pejabat Pos Besar,
01007 Kangar, Perlis
*
School of Environmental Engineering,
Universiti Malaysia Perlis,
P.O Box 77, d/a Pejabat Pos Besar,
01007 Kangar, Perlis

Email:1 ruzaidi@unimap.edu.my

Abstract: Foxtail grass is one of the fast growing grasses abundantly available
all over Malaysia. It is also known as ‘rumput bulu’ by the local people. A full
grown Foxtail grass attains a height of about 0.5 – 1.5 meters. The fibres were
prepared by mechanical grinding procedure and the fibre size, length and dry
weight produced can be controlled through the grinding time of this raw grass.
The polymer composite panels were then produced by the mixture between
various size of fibre and thermoplastic resin; for example polystyrene. The panels
were exhibited good and comparable flexural strength properties. The results
show that this grass fibre can be considered as one of the potential sources of
natural/ agro fibres for polymer composite panels.

Keywords: Grass fibre, natural/ agro fibre, polymer composites.

1.0 Introduction

Recently there are a lot of interests of using agro based materials as a natural
fibre to produce composites. Natural fibres are classified according to the
sources where they came from. For example; flax, kenaf, jute, hemp and grass
are classified as bast or stem fibre which are the fibrous bundle in their inner bark
of the plant stem running the length of the stem(1). These natural fibres have
received considerable attention because of environmentally friendly alternative to
be used as glass fibres in engineering composite (2). Agro-based natural fibres
have a number of ecological advantages since they are renewable, can be
incinerated with energy recovery, low cost, low density, acceptable specific
strength properties, less concern with safety and health (e.g. skin irritation) and
give less abrasive wear to the processing equipment such as extruder and
moulds (3). Although natural fibres have a number of ecological advantages they
also possess a number of disadvantages, such as lower impact strength, higher
moisture absorption which sometime bring about dimensional changes thus
leading to micro-crack, as well as poor thermal stability, which may also lead to
thermal degradation during processing (4).

Main reason of using grass as natural fibres is to diverse the natural fiber
application due to its abundantly available. Generally grasses are only used as
feed for livestock or used to modify contaminated soil. The aim of this research is
to use Malaysian Foxtail grass as natural fibres to produce composite panel. In
this study the effect of grinding time to the percentage of grass fibre weight loss
and the differences in size were studied. Flexural strength was used as
mechanical properties measurement for the composite panels produced. The
effect of water absorption on the composite panel was also investigated.

2.0 Materials and Methods

Cut out Malaysian Foxtail grass was obtained locally in Perlis and dried in the
lab. They were then identified as raw grass (non-ground), short fibre ground
grass and long fibre ground grass.

The Malaysian Foxtail grass fibres were mixed with polystyrene solution. In order
to get a ratio of 50:50 between grass and polystyrene, for example; 90 g of grass
was mixed with 300 g of 30% w/w polystyrene solution. The mixtures were left in
the room temperature for 24 hours for drying process. Composite panels were
prepared by hot pressing of the dried grass fibres with polystyrene resins at 190
o
C in the sheet frame mould shape. The specimen for flexural test then cut with
bandsaw. The three point bending test was performed using Instron machine.

The other specimens with dimension of 1 inch x 1 inch for water absorption test
were also prepared. The test samples for water absorption were immersed in
distilled water at the room temperature for about 24 hours. The samples were
dried and the increase in weight was measured.

3.0 Results and Discussion

3.1 Digital images of Malaysian Foxtail grass fibre

Malaysian Foxtail grass, also known as ‘rumput bulu’ by the local people, is one
of the fast growing grasses abundantly available all over Malaysia. A full grown
Foxtail grass attains a height of about 0.5 – 1.5 meters. Foxtail grass is a tall,
weedy, and cylindrical head contains many small seeds. Foxtail grasses can be
found at sunny areas, along roads and at the margins of fields. Figure 1 show the
digital photo of Malaysian Foxtail which available almost every where in Perlis.
Figure 1: The digital photo of Malaysian Foxtail grass or ‘Rumput Bulu’

Table 1 shows the effect of grinding time to the percentage of grass fibre weight
loss. Two stages of the weight loss were measured. The first stage was before
the grinding process name as WL1. This weight lost is due to the room
temperature drying after cut for 1 week. Then the second stage was after
grinding process name as WL 2. The increased of total weight loss when using
longer grinding time was came from the heat generated during the grinding
process.

Table 1: Total weight loss of the ground grass fibre at different grinding time

Grinding time WL 1 WL 2 Total weight


(minutes) (%) (%) loss (%)
1 12 19 31
3 12 21 33
5 12 23 35
7 12 24 36
10 12 25 37

The digital images of raw and ground fibre are shown in Figure 2. Compared with
raw grass (Figure 2 (a)), the ground grass fibres (Figure 2 (b) and (c)) appear to
be finer and more entangled.
(a) (b)

(c)
Fig 2: The digital images of (a) raw fibres, (b) short fibre ground grass and (c)
long fibre ground grass.

3.2 Water Absorption of the composite panels

Water absorption of the composite panels produced with raw grass and ground
grass fibre is presented in Table 2. The result indicate that the amount of water
uptake after 24 hour of soaking the composite panel in distilled water was not
clearly influence by the fibre forms.

Table 2: The amount of water uptake after 24 hours soaking in distilled water

Composite Panel Water absorption ( %)


Polystyrene + Raw Grass 8 -12
Polystyrene + Short Fibre Ground 7- 10
Grass
Polystyrene + Long Fibre Ground 7- 10
Grass

3.3 Flexural strength of composite panels

The flexural strength of grass fibre reinforced polystyrene composite panels is


shown in Figure 3. It was found that the flexural strength of the grass fibre
reinforced polystyrene composite panel increases with the decreasing of the fibre
length. This result also indicates that the grass fibre has potential to replace other
commercial natural fibres.
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Raw Grass Long fibre ground grass Short fibre ground grass Commercial natural fibre Polystyrene panel
panel panel panel panel

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Fig. 3: Flexural strength of the grass composite panels compared with the
commercial natural fibre composite panel and polystyrene panel.

4.0 Conclusion

This study investigated a potential application of Malaysian Foxtail grass fibre as


reinforcement in composite panels. The water absorption of the composite
panels was not affected by the fibre forms. The short fibres ground grass is the
highest flexural strength compared to the others. The flexural strengths indicate
the possibilities to use Malaysian Foxtail grass as alternative natural fibre to
replace the existing commercial natural fibres. The future of the Malaysian Foxtail
grass as natural fibres for composites application is very promising.

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5.0 References

1. Rowell, R. M. (1995) A New Generation of Composite Materials from


Agro-based Fibre, Proceedings of the 3rd international conference on
frontier of polymer and advance materials; 1995 Kuala Lumpur. NY:
Plenum Press: 659-665.
(MPa)

2. Peijs, T. Melick, H. G. H., Garkhail, S. K., Pott, G. T., Baille, C. A. (1998)


Proc. Of the European Con. On Composite Materials: Science,
Technologies and Applications, Woodhead Publishing, ECCM-8, Vol. 2:
119-126 (1998).
3. Hargitai, H., Racz, I. (2005) Development of Hemp Fibre-PP Nonwoven
Composites; Proceeding of the 8th Polymers for Advanced Technologies
International Symposium. Budapest, Hungary, 2005.
4. Sanadi, A., Caulfield, D. F., Jacobson, R. E. (1997) Paper and
Composites from Agro-based Resources, Lewis Publishers, New York,
377, 1997.