Heat treated wood–nylon 6 composites
Heat treatment is a relatively benign modification method that is growing as an industrial process to improve hygroscopicity, dimensional stability and biological resistance of lignocellulosic fillers. There also has been increased interest in the use of lignocellulosic fillers in numerous automotive applications. This study investigated the influence of untreated and heat treated wood fillers on the mechanical and rheological properties of wood filled nylon 6 composites for possible under-the-hood applications in the automobile industry where conditions are too severe for commodity plastics to withstand. In this study, exposure of wood to high temperatures (212 °C for 8 h) improved the thermal stability and crystallinity of wood. Heat treated pine and maple filled nylon 6 composites (at 20 wt.% loading) had higher tensile strengths among all formulations and increased tensile strength by 109% and 106% compared to neat nylon 6, respectively. Flexural modulus of elasticity (FMOE) of the neat nylon 6 was 2.34 GPa. The FMOE increased by 101% and 82% with the addition of 30 wt.% heat treated pine and 20 wt.% heat treated maple, where it reached maximum values of 4.71 GPa and 4.27 GPa, respectively. The rheological properties of the composites correlated with the crystallinity of wood fillers after the heat treatment. Wood fillers with high crystallinity after heat treatment contributed to a higher storage modulus, complex viscosity and steady shear viscosity and low loss factor in the composites. This result suggests that heat treatment substantially affects the mechanical and rheological properties of wood filled nylon 6 composites. The mechanical properties and thermogravimetric analysis indicated that the heat treated wood did not show significant thermal degradation under 250 °C, suggesting that the wood-filled nylon composites could be especially relevant in thermally challenging areas such as the manufacture of under-the-hood automobile components.