Natural fibres have a high potential as reinforcement of polymer matrices, as they combine a high specific strength and modulus with sustainable production and reasonable prices. Modifying the fibre surface is a common method to increase the adhesion and thereby enhance the mechanical properties of composites. In this study, a novel sustainable surface treatment is presented: the fungal enzyme laccase was utilised with the aim of covalently binding the coupling agent dopamine to flax fibre surfaces. The goal is to improve the interfacial strength towards an epoxy matrix. SEM and AFM micrographs showed that the modification changes the surface morphology, indicating a deposition of dopamine on the surface. Fibre tensile tests, which were performed to check whether the fibre structure was damaged during the treatment, showed that no decrease in tensile strength or modulus occurred. Single fibre pullout tests showed a 30% increase in interfacial shear strength (IFSS) due to the laccase-mediated bonding of the coupling agent dopamine. These results demonstrate that a laccase + dopamine treatment modifies flax fibres sustainably and increases the interfacial strength towards epoxy.
Keywords: dopamine; enzyme; interphase; laccase; natural fibre composites.