Nanocellulose reinforced sheet molding compound for automotive composite manufacturing
Miller, Mark Frazer
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The focus of this research is to investigate the potential of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) as reinforcement in typical glass fiber/epoxy sheet molding compounds (SMC). The hypothesis is that addition of CNC can improve the properties of the SMC composites, allowing glass fibers to be removed thus reducing the density/weight of the composite without compromising its mechanical properties. Reducing the weight of materials, including composites, can lead to better performance of the materials and/or higher fuel efficiency in case of materials used for transportation applications. In this research CNC is added into the glass fiber/epoxy systems either as a coating of the glass fibers or directly to the resin. In case of the CNC-coated glass fibers, the coating is characterized using optical and scanning electron microscopy, single fiber fragmentation tests and thermogravimetric analysis. The CNC-glass fiber/epoxy composites are made and their mechanical properties and density are determined as a function of the CNC content. Furthermore, a fiber coating bath that is connected to the SMC manufacturing line to enable in-stream coating and production of these composites using the SMC technology is designed and built based on feedback from the coating study. In case of adding the CNC in the resin, the composites were made using the SMC manufacturing line and their mechanical properties, density and structure were characterized as a function of the CNC content. In conclusion, addition of CNC either as a glass fiber coating or as an additive to the resin results in composites with improved tensile and flexural strength and modulus, does not alter the impact strength and the density and lays the ground for light-weighting of fiber reinforced polymer composites.