Creating Lightweight, Strong Panels with Banana Fibers and Glass-Clay Core

Jenn Hoskins
8th May, 2024

Creating Lightweight, Strong Panels with Banana Fibers and Glass-Clay Core

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Durban University of Technology developed a new lightweight, strong composite material
  • The composite includes hollow glass microspheres, nanoclay, and banana fiber, improving strength and buoyancy
  • This material could benefit industries needing durable yet light structures, like aerospace and marine
In recent years, researchers have been exploring innovative materials that can offer high strength-to-weight ratios for use in various industries like aerospace, marine, and construction. One area of focus is the development of sandwich composites, which are materials made up of two outer layers (face sheets) and a lightweight core that bonds them together. These composites combine the benefits of high strength and low weight, making them ideal for structural applications where these properties are critical. A team at Durban University of Technology has made significant strides in this field by creating a novel type of sandwich composite[1]. Their work centers on improving the mechanical properties of these materials by using a combination of hollow glass microspheres (HGM), nanoclay, and banana fiber face sheets. Sandwich composites are not entirely new. Previous studies have shown that syntactic foams, which are a type of composite material including hollow particles like HGMs within a matrix such as epoxy, can significantly enhance structural strength[2]. The size and volume fraction of these HGMs are known to affect the composite's flexural strength—a measure of its resistance to bending. For instance, a specific study[2] indicated that a 5% volume fraction of larger HGMs (50-60 µm) could increase the flexural strength of the composite by 69% over plain epoxy. Building on this understanding, the Durban University of Technology research team used HGMs as part of the core in their sandwich composites. They varied the HGM content from 1 wt% to 3 wt% and the nanoclay content from 1 wt% to 5 wt% in the core. The face sheets were made from banana fibers, which are natural, sustainable, and have a high strength-to-weight ratio. The mechanical performance of these composites was thoroughly assessed, and the findings were promising. The panels with a hybrid core of HGM and nanoclay displayed superior mechanical properties compared to those without the hybrid core. This improvement is attributed to the excellent interfacial adhesion between the hybrid core materials and the epoxy matrix, which is crucial for transferring stress effectively across the composite. The study also evaluated water absorption and buoyancy behavior, which are important for applications in marine environments where materials are often exposed to water and need to remain afloat. The results indicated that the hybrid core composites with banana fiber face sheets had better performance in these areas as well. These findings are in line with earlier research[3] that explored high-density polyethylene (HDPE) composites. That study highlighted the role of filler types, sizes, and dispersion in enhancing mechanical properties. It reported that composites containing 25% calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and 1% fumed silica (FS) saw the most significant improvements in tensile, flexural, and impact strengths without the need for additional fillers like talc. This reinforces the idea that the right combination of fillers can lead to substantial improvements in composite materials. The research by the Durban University of Technology team has expanded on these concepts by using a hybrid core in sandwich composites. The careful selection and combination of HGM, nanoclay, and banana fibers have led to a material that could revolutionize the way lightweight, high-strength structures are made. These new sandwich composites could be particularly beneficial in industries where materials must offer durability without adding unnecessary weight. In summary, the innovative approach taken by the researchers to develop sandwich composites with a hybrid core of HGM/nanoclay and banana fiber face sheets has shown to significantly enhance the mechanical properties of these materials. This study underscores the potential of using a combination of different fillers and natural fibers to create composites that are not only strong and lightweight but also have improved water resistance and buoyancy—a combination that could have wide-reaching implications for various structural applications.



Main Study

1) Development of epoxy-based sandwich composite panel with hollow glass microspheres/clay hybrid core and banana fiber facesheet for structural applications.

Published 15th May, 2024 (future Journal edition)

Related Studies

2) Analysis of Particle Variation Effect on Flexural Properties of Hollow Glass Microsphere Filled Epoxy Matrix Syntactic Foam Composites.

3) Impact of Hybrid Fillers on the Properties of High Density Polyethylene Based Composites.

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