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The mechanical properties and molecular bonding characteristics of clay-based natural composites reinforced with animal fibres

Galan-Marin, C. and Rivera-Gomez, C. and Bradley, F. (2013) The mechanical properties and molecular bonding characteristics of clay-based natural composites reinforced with animal fibres. Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy, 7 (1). pp. 143-151. ISSN 1556-6560

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Abstract

In recent years, natural fibres have started to be used as an ecologically friendly alternative for soil reinforcement within a variety of material applications. Test results have demonstrated the positive effects of adding natural fibres to soils, such as their ability to decrease shrinkage and enhance compressive, flexural and shear strength, if an optimum reinforcement ratio can be utilised. This paper deals with the analysis of the shrinkage phenomena occurring in soils stabilized with natural polymers and wool fibres using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and an Energy Diffraction Analysis of X-rays (EDX). Three soils, with different compositions and plasticity indexes, combined with three percentages of fibres (0%, 0.25% and 0.5%), were examined in this study. Despite the same fibre dosages being utilised in selected samples, quite different strength improvements were obtained for the three different types of soil. An SEM and EDX analysis was carried out to explore qualitatively the effects of shrinkage on the adhesion between the fibres and the soil. In addition, microscopic analysis was used to establish the relationship between the mechanical test results and the effectiveness of the reinforcement in each soil type. This research project has therefore sought to understand the variation in the mechanical properties of the different soils types due to the different inter-phase soil-reinforcement void distribution caused by shrinkage. The analytical tests revealed the degree of bonding between the particles of soil and the natural fibres and this has enabled a better understanding of the micro-morphology of the natural fibres and their effect on the overall composite material structure.