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ADVANCED APPLICATIONS OF SUGAR PALM REINFORCED POLYMER COMPOSITES

S.M. Sapuan1,2, R.A. Ilyas1,2 and S.F.K. Sherwani1

1Advanced Engineering Materials and Composites Research Centre (AEMC), Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

2 Laboratory of Biocomposite Technology, Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP), Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

 

*sapuan@upm.edu.my

 

Sugar palm tree, also known as Arenga Pinnata is a popular multipurpose tree dominantly found in tropical regions. It belongs to the Palmae family, which has about 181 genera with around 2600 known species [1], [2]. In Malaysia, sugar palm tree can be found widely along the rivers and bushes at the rural areas of Bruas-Parit, Perak; Raub, Pahang; Jasin, Melaka; Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan [3], [4]. Generally, it can be found throughout Malaysia due to this species that grows wild in many places. In Tawau (Sabah, West Malaysia) around 809 ha of sugar palm plantation planted by Kebun Rimau Sdn. Bhd (Figure 1). However, the plantation area of this species is much less than other palm species such as oil palm and coconut [5].

 

The fruit can be eaten as sweet meal and the fibers can be used for weaving hat and mats, making ropes, brooms, road construction, brushes, roof materials, cushion and shelters for fish breeding. Besides that, its stem core can be used for making sago flour and root as tea to cure bladder stones, insect repellent and posts for pepper, boards, tool handles, water pipes, musical instruments like drums [6]–[8]. Moreover, in study conducted by Sapuan et al. [8] shows that twelve sugar palm products were successfully developed, include sugar palm fiber, sugar palm starch, roofing, rope, brooms, bottle, brushes, vinegar, berries, liquid sugar, fined sugar and block sugar, as shown in Figure 2. This fiber also was used as cordage on fishing boats or sampans [9]. Sugar palm cellulose [10]–[12] and sugar palm nanocellulose [2], [13]–[16] also had been studied to enhance their application in various fields.  Up to the present time, the usage of sugar palm fibers has progressed to another successive level, especially to numerous engineering applications. In example, it is being used as advanced applications for underground and underwater cables, substitution of geo-textile fiberglass reinforcement in road construction for soil stabilization as well as a used as reinforcement in polymer matrix composite in material engineering [1]. Several studies have shown that sugar palm fibers have huge potential to be used in various polymer composite applications [17]–[28].

 

Composites are used extensively in chemical industries and marine applications, such as for boat and its components’ manufacturing. The potential of sugar palm fibers and biopolymer for industrial applications such as automotive, packaging, bioenergy and others had been done by many researchers [29], [30]. One of the application is producing SPF-concrete composite for the building industry by Wahyuni and Elhusna [31]. Besides that, Prabowo et al. [32] used sugar palm fibers as sound-absorbing material for a ducting silencer capable of absorbing the noise produced by air conditioning. Imran [33] used the same idea when he modified a zinc roof with composites of sugar palm fibers for sound insulation and vibration reduction purposes. Sugar palm fiber reinforced sugar palm starch biopolymer for food packaging application had been discussed extensively in literature [17]–[28]. Sugar palm fiber reinforced polystyrene is used in high-quality goods as roof tiles [34]. Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) fiber as novel reinforcement material for sugar palm biopolymer based composite films can be used for this purpose [35]. Pultruded sugar palm composite rods were also developed and used as parts of a biocomposite drain cover as shown in Figure 3. A product (e.g., a multipurpose table) can be made from SPF-reinforced composites using the hand lay-up process (Figure 4).

 

The hybridization of glass fiber with treated sugar palm fiber had been proven to  enhance the thermal properties of the hybrid composites for structural and automotive applications [21]. Sugar palm/glass fiber TPU hybrid composites can be used in applications that require resistance to elevated temperatures [36]. The findings of an experimental investigation on the hardened properties of black sugar palm fiber-reinforced concrete are reported [37]. Misri et al. [38] made intensive use of a hand lay-up process in the manufacturing of sugar palm/glass fiber reinforced unsaturated polyester to make a boat, as shown in Figure 5. Besides that, the hybrid SPF/glass fiber-reinforced polyurethane thermoplastic composite has the ability to replace a steel-based anti-roll bar without endangering the component's rigidity. Figure 6 displays an anti-roll bar for SPF/glass fiber reinforced automotive.

 

Figure 1: Sugar palm plantation planted by Kebun Rimau Sdn.Bhd.

 

Figure 2: Twelve products produced from sugar palm tree

 

 

Figure 3: Pultruded sugar palm composite rod used in drain cover

 

Figure 4: Multipurpose Table

 

 

Figure 5: A boat shaped mold for the hand layup of sugar palm composite

 

 

Figure 6: Sugar palm-glass fiber reinforced composite automobile anti-roll bar

 

Conclusion

Sugar palm (Arenga pinnata) is a multipurpose tree with several traditional uses for making numerous local products. Due to their outstanding mechanical properties, sugar palm fibers can compete with most natural fibers in the market such as jute, cotton, kenaf, coir, oil palm fiber and many more fibers. In general, the utilization of sugar palm fiber and starch in composites can help in: (1) developing sugar palm as new industrial crop in the future; (2) decreasing the pressure for the dependence on petroleum products and (1) reducing the negative environmental impact of synthetic polymers and fibers. Consequently, this can lead to better socio-economic empowerment of the rural people by increasing revenues and creating more job opportunities.

 

Reference

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Date of Input: 29/05/2020 | Updated: 29/05/2020 | m_hambali

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