Wood pulp fibers can serve as useful reinforcement of plastics for increased stiffness. To assess the potential of various wood fibers as reinforcement, a method has been developed to determine the contribution of the fibers to the elastic properties of the composite. A micromechanical composite model and classical laminate mechanics are used to relate the elastic properties of the fibers to the elastic properties of the composite. A large variety of composites made of various wood pulp fibers in an epoxy vinyl ester matrix was manufactured. From the tensile test results of the composites, the contributing Young's moduli of the fibers in the longitudinal direction are back-calculated and summarized. One finding is that there is an optimum in fiber stiffness as a function of lignin content. It is also found that industrially pulped hardwood fibers have higher stiffness than the corresponding softwood fibers. One example is kraft-cooked Norway spruce fiber, for which a Young's modulus of 40 GPa is found. The effects of hornification, prehydrolysis, and sulfite processing are also investigated. The results indicate that mild defibration process should be used, that does not damage the cell wall structure so that the inherent high stiffness of the native fibers can be retained. It can be concluded that the proposed method works well to rank the wood fiber candidates in terms of their contribution to the composite stiffness.
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