Light-weight and high-strength polymer composites have attracted the special attention of automotive and aerospace sectors since they offer advantages such as less fuel consumption and higher fuel efficiency. In the present study, an effort has been made to prepare such polymer composites using natural fiber and very low-density hollow inorganic particles.

The use of hollow glass microspheres as a potential filler particle for making light-weight hybrid polymer composites was investigated. Polypropylene (PP) and maleic anhydride-grafted-polypropylene (in 9:1 ratio) constituted the base matrix (BM). For strength reinforcement, alkali-treated short bamboo fibers (SBF) were employed, while for making the composite material light in weight, hollow glass microspheres were incorporated.

Silane treatment of hollow glass microspheres by (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane was performed to enhance interfacial adhesion with BM. Adequate wetting of hollow glass microspheres and SBF was evident from the SEM images of cryo-fractured samples. A 14% increase in tensile strength was observed in comparison to virgin PP for the composite with 5 wt.% hollow glass microspheres, and a desirable decrease in density was observed for all the composite samples with increasing content. Improvement in hardness but a marginal decrease in impact strength due to hollow glass microspheres fillers was observed.

Rheological analysis of the composite melt samples showed an apparent increase in the complex modulus with increasing content. Thermal analysis of the composites revealed a significant impact of hybrid fillers on the crystallinity, with SBF showing a minimal effect while hollow glass microspheres reducing it significantly. Wide-angle x-ray diffraction spectra showed changes in the crystal structure of the composite with noticeable β-form peaks.

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