The use of natural fibers in reinforced composites to produce eco-friendly materials is gaining more attention due to their attractive features such as low cost, low density and good mechanical properties, among others. This work thus investigates the potential of waste abaca (Manila hemp) fiber as reinforcing agent in an inorganic aluminosilicate material known as geopolymer. In this study, the waste fibers were subjected to different chemical treatments to modify the surface characteristics and to improve the adhesion with the fly ash-based geopolymer matrix. Definitive screening design of experiment was used to investigate the effect of successive chemical treatment of the fiber on its tensile strength considering the following factors: (1) NaOH pretreatment; (2) soaking time in aluminum salt solution; and (3) final pH of the slurry. The results show that the abaca fiber without alkali pretreatment, soaked for 12 h in Al2
solution and adjusted to pH 6 exhibited the highest tensile strength among the treated fibers. Test results confirmed that the chemical treatment removes the lignin, pectin and hemicellulose, as well as makes the surface rougher with the deposition of aluminum compounds. This improves the interfacial bonding between geopolymer matrix and the abaca fiber, while the geopolymer protects the treated fiber from thermal degradation.
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