Development of Semitransparent Wood-Polymer Composites

june 11 2012

A new material has been developed consisting of pieces of wood embedded within a matrix of acrylic polymer, resulting in a transparent or semitransparent wood-based product. This material presents quite appealing aesthetic features, thereby opening new possibilities for decorative applications. Because acrylic and methacrylic monomers are in the liquid state at room temperature, it is possible to introduce wood (in the current case, walnut wood) into a mixture of acrylic (hydroxypropyl acrylate) and/or methacrylic monomers (methyl methacrylate and 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) along with a plasticizer (dioctyl phthalate) in the presence of a chemical initiator (benzoyl peroxide). A transparent polymeric matrix with dispersed wood is then obtained through bulk free-radical polymerization. Introducing this reaction mixture along with pieces of wood into a mold results in a wood-polymer composite. A 24−1 experimental fractional factorial design was implemented to study the importance of the composition of these materials on several relevant properties. The sheets produced were characterized by tensile testing, dynamic mechanical thermal analysis, thermal gravimetric analysis, and heat deflection temperature. The models obtained for predicting each property pointed to valuable insights regarding the influential constituents. In particular, our results suggested that monomers to be used in future applications of this material should be selected in terms of their cost and the desired flexibility for the final product, not in terms of their polarity.

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