Development of Wood Flour-Recycled Polymer Composite Panels As Building Materials
Thesis DisciplineChemical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Wood plastic composites (WPCs) were made using matrices of recycled high-density polyethylene (rHDPE) and polypropylene (rPP) with sawdust (Pinus radiata) as filler. Corresponding WPCs were also made using virgin plastics (HDPE and PP) for comparison with the recycled plastic based composites. WPCs were made through melt compounding and hot-press moulding with varying formulations based on the plastic type (HDPE and PP), plastic form (recycled and virgin), wood flour content and addition of coupling agent. The dimensional stability and mechanical properties of WPCs were investigated. Durability performances of these WPCs were studied separately, by exposing to accelerated freeze-thaw (FT) cycles and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The property degradation and colour changes of the weathered composites were also examined. Dimensional stability and flexural properties of WPCs were further investigated by incorporation of nanoclays in the composite formulation. To understand the changes in WPCs stability and durability performance, microstructure and thermal properties of the composites were examined. Two mathematical models were developed in this work, one model to simulate the moisture movement through the composites in long-term water immersion and the other model to predict the temperature profile in the composites during hot-press moulding.
Both rHDPE and rPP matrix based composites exhibited excellent dimensional stability and mechanical properties, which were comparable to those made from virgin plastics. Incorporation of maleated polypropylene (MAPP) coupling agent in composite formulation improved the stability and the mechanical properties. The incorporation of 3 wt. % MAPP coupling agent to WPCs showed an increase in tensile strength by 60% and 35 %, respectively, for the rHDPE based and rPP based composites with 50 wt. % wood flour. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images of the fractured surfaces of WPCs confirmed that the MAPP coupling improved the interfacial bonding between the plastic and the wood filler for both series of composites. Long-term water immersion tests showed that the water transport mechanism within the WPCs follows the kinetics of Fickian diffusion.
Dimensional stability and flexural properties of the WPC were degraded after 12 accelerated FT cycles as well as 2000 h of UV weathering for both recycled and virgin HDPE and PP based composites. However, the MAPP coupled composites had improved stability and flexural property degradation. The surface of the weathered composites experienced a colour change, which increased with the exposure time. The MAPP coupled composites exhibited less colour change as compared to non-coupled composites. Regarding the effect of the plastic type, the PP based composites experienced higher colour change than those based on HDPE. With weathering exposure, flexural strength and stiffness of the WPCs were decreased, but elongation at break was increased regardless of plastic type and wood flour content. MAPP coupled rPP and rHDPE based UV weathered WPCs lowered the degradation of stiffness by 50% and 75%, respectively compared to non-coupled WPCs. SEM images of the fractured surfaces of FT and UV weathered WPCs confirmed a decrease in the interfacial bonding between the wood flour and matrix. Thermal properties of weathered composites changed with weathering, but the extent of the changes depended on WPCs formulation and matrix type.
From the experimental studies on nanoclay-filled rHDPE composites, it is found that stability, flexural properties of WPCs could be improved with an appropriate combination of coupling agent, and nanoclay contents processed by melt blending. Incorporation of 1-5 wt. % nanoclay in the maleated polyethylene (MAPE) coupled wood plastic composite improved the dimensional stability and flexural properties. The thermal properties changed with the addition of nanoclay and MAPE in WPCs. In this work, a hot press-moulding model was proposed based on the one-dimensional transient heat conduction to predict the temperature profile of the WPCs during hot pressing cycle. The results from this work clearly show that rHDPE and rPP can be successfully used to produce stable and strong WPCs, which properties and performances are similar to or comparable to composites made of wood and virgin plastics. Therefore, WPCs based on recycled PP and HDPE matrix could have potential to use as construction materials.