Atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) was investigated as a method of covalently bonding polystyrene to jute (Corchorus capsularis) and as a possible approach to fiber composites with enhanced properties. Jute fibers were modified with a brominated initiator and subsequently ATRP modified to attach polystyrene and then examined using SEM, DSC, TGA, FTIR, XPS, elemental analysis, and Py-GC-MS. These techniques confirmed that polystyrene had been covalently bound to the fibers and consequently ATRP-modified jute fiber mats were used to prepare hot-pressed polystyrene composites. Composite specimens were tensile tested and fracture surfaces examined using SEM. Although SEM examination suggested different fracture modes between unmodified fiber and ATRP-modified samples, the tensile strength of modified samples was slightly lower on average than that of unmodified samples. For fiber composite applications, we conclude that further optimization of the ATRP method is required, possibly targeting higher and more uniform loading of polystyrene on the fibers.
Biomacromolecules, 2005, Vol 6, Issue 5, p. 2474-2484