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Original Article
DOI: 10.1016/j.jmrt.2018.12.016
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Available online 14 March 2019
Impact properties of kenaf Fibre/X-ray films hybrid composites for structural applications
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A.M.R. Azmia, M.T.H. Sultana,b,c,
Corresponding author
thariq@upm.edu.my

Corresponding author at: Department of Aerospace Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.
, M. Jawaidb, A.U.M. Shaha,b, A.F.M. Nora, M.S.A. Majidd, S. Muhamade, A.R.A. Taliba
a Department of Aerospace Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
b Laboratory of Biocomposite Technology (BIOCOMPOSITE), Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP), Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
c Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (944751-A), Prime Minister's Department, MIGHT Partnership Hub, Jalan Impact, 63000 Cyberjaya, Selangor, Malaysia
d School of Mechatronic Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Pauh Putra Campus, 02600 Arau, Perlis, Malaysia
e Engineering Department, Razak School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra, 51400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Received 27 July 2018, Accepted 31 December 2018
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Tables (2)
Table 1. Development of the bulletproof vest.
Table 2. Mean high velocity impact test results for all bullet types at their respective pressure settings.
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Abstract

Most existing designs of high velocity impact resistant materials are either heavy or expensive, so in markets the demand for lighter and cheaper materials is always on the rise. The aim of this work to investigates the effect of different projectile shape and impact velocities on the energy absorption and compression after impact of kenaf/X-ray/epoxy hybrid composites. Kenaf fibre treated with NaOH solution and perforated X-ray films were chosen as a reinforcement in the epoxy matrix to fabricate hybrid composites. The hybrid composites were fabricated using conventional hand lay-up method followed by compression moulding and were subjected to high velocity impact tests using a single stage gas gun. The pressure settings of the gas gun were varied as follows: 20bar, 30bar, 40bar and 50bar, while the projectiles used were of three types: blunt, hemispherical and conical ones. After the high velocity impact tests, the composites underwent dye penetration inspection and were subjected to compression after impact tests. The obtained results revealed that the hybrid composites subjected to high velocity impact with hemispherical projectile exhibited the highest energy absorption, compared to the conical and blunt geometry. On the other hand, the hybrid composites subjected to hemispherical projectile impact possess the lowest residual strength compared to conical and blunt geometry. The dye penetration test as well as the visual inspection also revealed that the hemispherical projectile produces the biggest damage compared to the other two projectile types. We concluded that developed kenaf/X-ray/epoxy hybrid composites suitable for ballistic applications.

Keywords:
Impact resistant
Energy absorption
Composites
Hybrid
Strength
Treatment
Full Text
1Introduction

With their low specific weight, natural fibres present higher specific strength and stiffness in comparison with glass. This imparts better bending stiffness to natural fibre composites [1]. Natural fibres are extracted from renewable resources, whose cultivation does not require much energy, besides, during the growth of the plants, while oxygen is returned to the environment, carbon dioxide is consumed [2]. Their cultivation also involves a low investment, which is affordable even for low-wage countries. Processing the raw material is also labour-friendly, without causing major wear of tools and skin irritation. Also, it is possible to recycle fibre based materials, while glass would pose some problems in combustion furnaces [3]. The mechanical properties of natural fibres based composites can also be improved easily with chemical modification [4]. Besides mechanical modification, natural fibre composites can also be enhanced structurally by using prestressing method [5,6].

A lot of research has been done in recent years on developing natural fibre reinforced materials for multiple applications, including ballistic application [7,8]. Natural fibres are also found suitable to be used in structural applications [9]. The study by Sohaimi investigated the potential of using coconut shell powder/Twaron®-reinforced epoxy (COEX) in anti-ballistic impact applications [10]. Impacts are commonly divided into three types, based on the range of speed of the projectile. These types are low velocity impact – up to 10m/s, high velocity or ballistic impact – ranging from 50m/s to 1000m/s, and hyper velocity impact – over 2km/s [11].

Wambua et al. [12] found that a sandwiched steel/jute composite provided better results in energy absorption, compared to plain jute composite and neat steel. Another research examined the penetration of individual ballistic test specimens and found that a jute fabric composite presented more efficiency in terms of ballistic resistance, whereas aramid fabric and plain epoxy dissipated less energy [13]. Rohen et al. found that a sisal composite showed 20% more efficiency in ballistic performance and displayed a smaller indentation in the clay witness in comparison with an aramid [14].

Some parts of bamboo fibre were found to have good mechanical and physical properties [15]. A research found that substituting aramid fabric with giant bamboo reinforced epoxy composite as the second layer in a multi-layered armour system (MAS) is justified by both technical and economic reasons, with the additional advantage of environmental friendliness of natural fibre [16]. Another study related to MAS shows that a 30vol% curaua fibre-reinforced epoxy composite presents better ballistic performance when used as the second layer in a MAS, compared to aramid fabric, which was determined by the indentation in a clay witness [17].

An investigation through the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) determined that kenaf bast fibre is the most suitable natural fibre for hybridisation with Kevlar [18]. Another study comparing 13 different natural fibre alternatives confirmed that kenaf is top-ranking [19]. The major benefit of hybridising kenaf with synthetic fibres lies in reduced reliance on petroleum resources, from which the synthetic fibres used in Personnel Armour Systems for Ground Troops (PASGT) are derived [20].

However, little experimental work has been done on the high-impact properties of hybrid kenaf/synthetic fibre reinforced composites. Davoodi et al. researched the usage of a hybrid kenaf/glass-based epoxy composite material in a possible car bumper beam application and found that the impact properties could be enhanced by determining the optimal thickness of the beam and strengthening the material through epoxy toughening, in order to improve energy absorption by modifying the ductility behaviour [21]. Another researcher found that hybridising kenaf fibre with aramid yields good ballistic properties whilst reducing the weight of the overall composite [22].

Table 1 shows that a lot of research has been conducted on the high velocity impact properties of natural fibre based composites, synthetic fibre based ones and hybrid ones. Nevertheless, it also reveals lack of research on kenaf fibre reinforced composites, and undoubtedly much less, if any, on X-ray film based ones. All in all, the studies listed in Table 1 justify the substitution of existing materials with natural fibre composites. Hence, considering the promising results reported in the literature for kenaf fibre reinforced composite materials and the gap in the research related to their high-velocity impact properties, this study focused on determining the impact characteristics of hybrid composites comprising kenaf fibre and X-ray films as a function of different projectile types and speed.

Table 1.

Development of the bulletproof vest.

Design  Materials used  Reference 
Ballistic impact resistance of graphite epoxy composites with shape memory alloy and extended chain polyethylene spectra™ hybrid components  Shape memory alloy (SMA), spectra  [23] 
The ballistic impact characteristics of Kevlar® woven fabrics impregnated with a colloidal shear thickening fluid  Kevlar, Nissan chemicals (MP4540)  [24] 
Ballistic resistance capacity of carbon nanotubes  Carbon nanotubes  [25] 
The response of natural fibre composites to ballistic impact by fragment simulating projectiles  Polypropylene, flex, hemp, jute  [12] 
Ballistic performance of coconut shell powder/Twaron fabric against non-armour piercing projectiles  Coconut shell powder-epoxy composite (COEX), Twaron fabric  [26] 
Development of a green combat armour from Rame-Kevlar-polyester composite  Ramie, Kevlar, polyester  [27] 
Finite element modelling of ballistic impact on a glass fibre composite armour  Glass fibre  [28] 
Aspects regarding the use of polyethylene fibres for personal armour  Endumax, alumina  [29] 
Ballistic properties of hybrid thermoplastic composites with silica nanoparticles  Multi-axial aramid, Twaron, polymer powder poly, absolute ethanol  [30] 
Development of nylon, glass/wool blended fabric for protective application  Nylon, glass, wool, multi walled carbon nanotube  [31] 
Ballistic test of multilayered armour with intermediate epoxy composite reinforced with jute fabric  Nb2O5 doped Al2O3 impact resistant ceramic, Kevlar, jute fabric reinforced epoxy matrix composite  [13] 
Bullet proof vest using non-Newtonian fluid  Kevlar, bootblack, polyethylene glycol and silica mixture  [32] 
Combination of natural fibre Boehmeria nivea (Ramie) with matrix epoxide for bullet proof vest body armour  Ramie, cotton-rayon  [33] 
Design of a bullet-proof vest using shear thickening fluid  Shear thickening fluid, dyneema  [34] 
Experimental and numerical analysis of bulletproof armour made from polymer composite materials  Kevlar, Al2O3  [35] 
Giant bamboo fibre reinforced epoxy composite in multilayered ballistic armour  Nb2O5 doped Al2O3 brittle ceramic, aramid fibre, giant bamboo fibres reinforced epoxy matrix composite  [16] 
Natural curaua fibre-reinforced composites in multilayered ballistic armour  Curaua fibre-reinforced composites, Al2O3 ceramic, aluminium alloy  [17] 
2Experimental2.1Materials

The test specimens were prepared from X-ray films and kenaf fibre for reinforcing a polymeric composite. The X-ray films (Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) were perforated with consistent holes 2cm apart, which was considered as a treatment. The epoxy resin (ZKK Sdn. Bhd, Selangor, Malaysia) was reinforced with woven kenaf fibre (ZKK Sdn. Bhd, Selangor, Malaysia) to produce a kenaf fibre-reinforced polymeric composite. The kenaf fibre was treated using a sodium hydroxide solution with 6% concentration for 3hours, in a tank immersed in a water bath at 95°C ([36]). The specimens were fabricated in a sandwich configuration, where 4 layers of X-ray films were sandwiched between 3 layers of kenaf fibre on top and 3 layers of kenaf fibre at the bottom.

2.2Testing methodology

The high-velocity impact test was carried out using a single stage gas gun, as shown in Fig. 1(a), with blunt, hemispherical and conical mild steel projectiles. The speed of the projectile was varied by setting the pressure to 20bar, 30bar, 40bar, and 50bar, displayed on the pressure gauge. The different pressure settings varied the projectile speed from 175m/s to 245m/s.

Fig. 1.

High velocity impact test setup.

(0.14MB).

For safety reasons, a catch chamber, as shown in Fig. 1(b), was used to avoid fragments or projectile deflection and hitting the gas gun operator. The Ballistic Data Acquisition (DAQ) System collects the data from the experiment and translates them to values, such as the absorbed impact energy and the impact force. The DAQ system then relays this information to the software used for it to generate the data and graphs. The system provided data regarding the penetration of the specimens, the velocity of the projectiles and the absorbed impact energy.

The dye penetrant test was done on the impacted specimens to observe the damage area and progression. The test was carried out using a Magnaflux dye penetrant testing kit, which consists of 3 consumable products, namely SKL-SP2 solvent removable penetrant, SKD-S2 solvent-based developer, and SKC-S remover.

The compression after impact test setup was chosen based on ASTM standard D7137, using anti-buckling Boeing CAI test fixture. This test was done to determine the residual compressive strength of the specimens and was carried out using a Shimadzu AG-X Ultimate Testing machine with a capacity of 300kN, maximum speed of 3000mm/min and vertical test space of 1150mm. The speed used was 1.25mm/min.

A visual inspection was conducted to inspect the failure mechanism of the laminated hybrid composites. The specimens were cut along the thickness direction to allow observation from the cross-section view.

3Results and discussion3.1High velocity impact test

The tests were conducted at 4 different pressure settings, which resulted in different projectile velocity, and were replicated for three times for each projectile type. Table 2 below shows the mean results for the different types of projectiles as a function of pressure.

Table 2.

Mean high velocity impact test results for all bullet types at their respective pressure settings.

Bullet type  Pressure (bar)  20  30  40  50 
Blunt  Bullet speed (m/s)  179.21  214.43  232.55  242.78 
  Absorbed energy (J)  111.07  133.15  138.36  127.29 
  Maximum force (N)  680.37  805.16  838.56  771.46 
Conical  Bullet speed (m/s)  146.97  178.47  196.30  207.49 
  Absorbed energy (J)  121.57  132.50  136.50  136.22 
  Maximum force (N)  736.78  803.01  827.25  813.97 
Hemispherical  Bullet speed (m/s)  173.97  209.48  228.22  238.78 
  Absorbed energy (J)  129.83  139.42  142.45  142.27 
  Maximum force (N)  788.03  843.07  867.52  862.10 

Judging by the data in Table 2, the specimens could withstand an impact force of more than 800N for the conical projectile. Also, the specimens could withstand an impact force of 770N for the blunt projectiles, and possibly higher than that. However, for the hemispherical projectile, at 50bar pressure setting, all the specimens were completely penetrated. This means that the specimens could not withstand the impact with a hemispherical projectile that produces an impact force of 862.10N.

The projectiles penetrated the top kenaf layer for most of the specimens tested with high velocity impact test, and lost most of their penetrative force as they penetrate the X-ray films. Most of the projectiles were either bounced back by the X-ray films, or have gotten stuck in the X-ray films as shown in Fig. 2. This demonstrates the bulletproof capabilities of the designed material.

Fig. 2.

Bullet stuck on X-ray film.

(0.08MB).

Fig. 3 shows the impact energy absorbed and the maximum force exerted on the specimens as a function of the pressure setting and projectile type.

Fig. 3.

(a) Impact energy absorbed; (b) maximum force exerted and their respective pressure setting.

(0.11MB).

In Fig. 3(a), we can observe that the energy absorbed increased as the pressure setting was raised and then suddenly dropped at a pressure of 50bar. As can be seen in the graph, this drop is very subtle for both conical and hemispherical projectiles, but drastic for the blunt projectile. This drop could be explained by the fact that the limit of the impact energy the specimens are able to absorb has been reached. However, with regard to the blunt projectile, it is possible that the projectile of the projectile itself was off rail, causing the projectile to hit the specimen not frontally, but with its corner. Thus, the projectile exerted a lower amount of force and less energy was absorbed by the specimens.

As can be noted in Fig. 3(b), the hemispherical projectiles exerted the highest amount of force among all the projectile types used in the study. In terms of the exerted force, the hemispherical projectiles were followed by the conical projectiles and lastly by the blunt ones. This may be due to the shape of the projectile itself, which affects the point of impact.

Considering this, we can conclude that the shape of the projectile affects the impact force, regardless of the speed. As can be seen in Table 2, blunt projectiles travel with a higher velocity, compared to the other two projectile types, but as shown in Fig. 3(b), at 20bar pressure, it exerts the lowest force, compared to the other two.

3.2Dye penetration test and visual inspection

After the high-velocity impact test, the specimens were subjected to dye penetrant inspection. It allows approximating the damage area and comparing it for different projectile types and pressure settings.

As shown in Fig. 4, there is a difference in the damage area produced by the 3 types of projectiles, the hemispherical projectile having produced the largest damage area. It is followed by the blunt projectile and lastly by the conical one, even though the difference between these two is not that obvious.

Fig. 4.

Damage area: (a–c) 30bar pressure setting; (d–f) 40bar pressure setting; (g, h) 50bar pressure setting.

(0.5MB).

It can be remarked in Fig. 4(g) and (h) that the conical projectile produced a larger damage area, compared to the blunt projectile. This is probably due to the blunt projectile not hitting the specimen frontally; instead, it may have hit the specimen laterally or with its corner. This could also possibly be due to the high speed and flat nature of the blunt projectile's surface, where the projectile had air resistance that changed the projectile of the projectile.

Fig. 5 shows the damage area produced by different projectile types at various pressure settings.

Fig. 5.

Damage area model for respective bullet types and corresponding pressure setting.

(0.08MB).

Fig. 5 reveals that the damage progression increases as a function of the pressure setting and projectile speed. This means that the faster the projectiles travel and the harder the impact, the bigger the damage. It should be noted that the damage area incurred by the blunt projectile type at 50bar pressure was unexpectedly low, judging by the dye penetrant results, which may have been caused by the projectile derailing from its projectile during testing. It should also be noted that there is no damage area estimation for the hemispherical projectile at 50bar pressure due to all the specimens tested at this level being fully penetrated.

Fig. 6 shows the visual inspection of the damage inflicted by all the projectile types with their respective pressure setting.

Fig. 6.

Visual inspection of impacted specimens according to pressure setting and projectile type.

(0.9MB).

Cross-sections of samples at the impacted area were cut along the thickness direction to inspect the damage failure progression as shown in Fig. 6. The damage produced for these specimens is a pine cone shaped hole. All the figures show shear failure on both top and bottom part of kenaf fibre except for Fig. 6(i) where there is tension failure at the bottom kenaf fibre due to complete perforation of the sample. Tensile failure also exists on most of the X-ray films layer. As can be seen in all parts of Fig. 6, all samples show delamination between the top kenaf, X-ray films and bottom kenaf which may be the biggest contributor to the energy absorption. It can also be observed that hemispherical projectiles produce the most damage on the samples, followed by conical and blunt geometry.

3.3Compression after impact (CAI)

The compressive strength of the specimens subjected to the high-velocity impact test was determined by the compression after impact (CAI) test. Fig. 7 shows the mean stress versus strain of the specimens as a function of the pressure used during the impact test (20bar, 30bar, 40bar and 50bar).

Fig. 7.

Compressive strength of specimens subjected to high-velocity impact.

(0.34MB).

Based on Fig. 7(a), we can observe that there is only a small difference in the compressive stress or compressive strength. Thus, it can be concluded that even though the stress that the specimens were subjected to by the different projectile types does not differ much, the deformation of the specimens varies significantly. This demonstrates that the projectile type really affects the failure degree of the specimens.

As illustrated in Fig. 7(b), the strength of the specimen impacted by the blunt projectile is slightly higher than that of the specimen struck by the conical projectile. We can also observe that, at a pressure of 30bar, the specimen hit by the hemispherical projectile somehow shows better compressive strength, compared to the specimens struck by the other projectile types. This is to say that the damage sustained by the specimen impacted by the hemispherical projectile was not that bad at a pressure of 30bar. However, this does not seem to be in agreement with the previous results. Hence, it was most probably caused by some error during the CAI test.

In Fig. 7(c), we can observe a huge difference in the compressive strength of the specimen impacted by the blunt projectile. This is conducive to the conclusion that the damage incurred by blunt projectiles is not as extensive as that caused by the other two projectile types, owing to the flat surface of the projectile. We can also observe that the specimen subjected to the hemispherical projectile shows the weakest compressive strength, while the specimen impacted by the conical projectile ranks with the medium compressive strength.

Judging by Fig. 7(d), there is not much difference in strength between the specimens subjected to the 3 projectile types. A possible explanation to this could be that the specimens reached of the maximum damage they could bear from the high-velocity impact test, thus all the specimens exhibited a similar condition.

4Conclusions

The hybrid composites were subjected to high velocity impact test with different projectile geometry. The following conclusions were drawn from the ballistic, non-destructive testing and compression after impact.

  • The high-velocity impact test demonstrated that the specimens could withstand a projectile travelling at up to 240m/s, exerting an impact force of up to 800N and managed to absorb up to 135J of impact energy. This proves that this hybrid composite has considerable anti-ballistic qualities.

  • The hemispherical projectile managed to penetrate the specimens fully at 50bar pressure. This means that the hemispherical projectile has the highest penetrative capabilities among the three projectile types analysed in the study.

  • Upon observation of the impacted specimens, it was noted that the projectiles mostly penetrated the front part of the specimens, which is the kenaf fibre layer, and bounced back or remained stuck in the X-ray film layer. This indicates that the impact-resistance of the composites mostly resides in the use of the X-ray film layer, whereas the kenaf fibre acts like the ceramic front of a multi-layered armour system.

  • The dye penetrant inspection revealed that the hemispherical projectile left a large and deep damage area, which indicates a high penetrative force. The conical projectile also left a deep damage, but the area is not as large as that incurred by the hemispherical projectile. This can be deduced from the intensity of the dye, which was high, but the circumference was not too large. Lastly, the blunt projectile left a large damage area, but the damage was shallow due to the nature of the projectile, inflicting a more blunt force, as opposed to a penetrative force. This was indicated by the circumference of the damage area, which was large enough, but the colour of the dye was very light.

  • The visual inspection also indicates that the hemispherical projectile produces the highest damage, making a deeper indentation on the laminated hybrid composites. It is also supported by the fact that only the hemispherical projectile managed to fully perforate the sample at 50bar pressure setting.

  • The compression after impact test showed that even though the compressive strength of the specimens subjected to impact with different projectile types was not that different, the strain of the specimens varied significantly. This is most probably explained by the fact that different projectile types inflict different types of damage, whether the damage progressed deep into the specimen or it was not too deep, but with a wide damage area.

  • The compression after impact test also showed that the compressive strength of the specimens struck by hemispherical projectiles was the lowest, followed by the specimens impacted by conical projectiles and lastly by those hit by blunt projectiles. This is in agreement with previous results and with the fact that the hemispherical projectile inflicts higher force, compared to the other two projectile types.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgements

This work is supported by UPM under UPM/INTROP/100-13/9/3/HICOE (6369107). The authors would like to express their gratitude and sincere appreciation to the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Laboratory of Biocomposite Technology, Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (INTROP), Universiti Putra Malaysia (HiCOE).

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Journal of Materials Research and Technology

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