RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN TENSILE STRENGTH, MORPHOLOGY AND CRYSTALLINITY OF TREATED KENAF BAST FIBERS
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Surface treatments on kenaf bast fibers were carried out with steam, alkali and a combination of steam-alkali. To verify and gain an understanding of their inter-relationship, tensile strength, surface morphology and crystallinity of treated and raw fibers were characterized. Tensile strength of fibers was measured with a universal tensile machine (UTM), crystallinity was estimated using X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Fourier transformation infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and surface morphology was examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Tensile strength of the treated fibers was higher than that of the raw fiber. Tensile strength increased after steam treatment and was further improved by alkali treatment, but slightly reduced after steam treatment followed by alkalization. Increase of concentration of alkali tended to increase tensile strength. Differences in tensile strength of the treated fibers are discussed in relation to the changes in surface morphology and crystallinity. Understanding of these relationships may provide direction towards the goal of producing better performance of natural fiber composites.