Progress in engineering research has shifted the interest from traditional monolithic materials to modern materials such as fibre reinforced composites (FRC). This paradigm shift can be attributed to the unique mechanical characteristics of FRCs such as high strength to weight ratio, good flexural strength, and fracture toughness. At present, synthetic composites dominate the auto-motive, aerospace, sporting, and construction industries despite serious drawbacks such as costly raw materials, high manufacturing costs, non-recyclability, toxicity, and non-biodegradability. To address these issues, naturally occurring plant fibres (such as jute, hemp, sisal) are being increasingly researched as potential reinforcements for biodegradable or non-biodegradable polymer matrices to produce environmentally friendly composites. In this study, sisal fibres were selected owing to their low production costs, sustainability, recyclability, and biodegradability. The hydrothermal ageing and mechanical characteristics of sisal fibre-reinforced epoxy (SFRE) composites were determined and compared with glass fibre-reinforced epoxy (GFRE) synthetic composites. Moreover, a first-of-its-kind numerical model have been developed to study the hydrothermal ageing and mechanical characteristics of SFRE, along with GFRE, using ANSYS software. Moreover, microstructural analysis of flexural tested GFRE and SFRE samples were carried out to identify the microstructural properties of the composites. Both experimental and numerical results exhibited an influence of short-or long-term hydrothermal treatment on the flexural properties of glass and sisal fibre-based composites. In the case of GFRE, the moisture uptake and fibre-matrix de-bonding existed, but it is less severe as compared to the SFRE composites. It was found that the dosage of sisal fibres largely determines the ultimate mechanical performance of the composite. Nonetheless, the experimental and numerical flexural strengths of SFRE were comparable to GFRE composites. This exhibited that the SFRE composites possess the potentiality as a sustainable material for advanced applications.
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- hydrothermal ageing
- natural fibres
- synthetic fibres