Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

Committee Chair

Rakesh K. Gupta.


The combined effects of alkali and ultrasound treatment of wood flour on the mechanical properties of polypropylene-based wood/plastic composites (WPCs) were examined. FTIR measurements confirmed that the alkali treatment removed both hemicellulose and lignin from the wood, and there was an increase in the number of hydroxyl groups on the cellulose surface. This process was promoted by the application of ultrasound. Mechanical testing of injection-molded WPC samples revealed that alkali treatment improved both composite strength and modulus when polypropylene grafted with maleic acid was used as a coupling agent. The strength increase is due to improved adhesion between the fiber and matrix, while improved modulus is due to the removal of lignin and hemicellulose that are not as stiff as cellulose. Polarized optical microscopy showed the presence of well-defined polymer crystals on the surface of the modified wood, and this is also responsible for the improved mechanical properties. It is conclusively demonstrated that the combination of chemical treatment of wood and ultrasound assistance is more effective in improving the mechanical properties of the composites than the use of chemical treatment alone.