Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Dr. Thomas H. Fronk

Abstract

Natural fibers have drawn attention of researchers as an environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic fibers. Developing natural fiber reinforced bio-composites are a viable alternative to the problems of non-degrading and energy consuming synthetic composites. This study focuses on (i) the application of kenaf fiber as a potential reinforcement and, (ii) determining the tensile properties of the randomly oriented short kenaf fiber composite both experimentally and numerically. Kenaf fiber micro-structure and its Young's modulus with varying gage length (10, 15, 20, and 25.4 mm) were investigated. The variation in tensile strength of kenaf fibers was analyzed using the Weibull probability distribution function. It was observed that the Young's modulus of kenaf fiber increased with increase in gage length. Fabrication of randomly oriented short kenaf fiber using vacuum bagging techniques and hand-lay-up techniques were discussed and the tensile properties of the specimens were obtained experimentally. The tensile modulus of the composite sample at 22% fiber volume fraction was found to be 6.48 GPa and tensile strength varied from 20 to 38 MPa. Numerical models based on the micro mechanics concepts in conjunction with finite element methods were developed for predicting the composite properties. A two-step homogenization procedure was developed to evaluate the elastic constants at the cell wall level and the meso-scale level respectively. Von-Mises Fisher probability distribution function was applied to model the random orientation distribution of fibers and obtain equivalent modulus of composite. The predicted equivalent modulus through numerical homogenization was in good agreement with the experimental results.

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