Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 2677–2686 | Cite as

Enzymatically treated natural fibres as reinforcing agents for biocomposite material: mechanical, thermal, and moisture absorption characterization

  • Michael George
  • Paolo G. Mussone
  • Kirill Alemaskin
  • Michael Chae
  • John Wolodko
  • David C. Bressler
Original Paper


The main goal of this research was to study how enzymatic treatment of hemp and flax fibres affects their utilization as reinforcement in polypropylene composites. Enzymes are environmentally benign, can be reused, and require mild operating conditions. The central hypothesis of this study is that the removal of hemicellulose and pectic fractions would reduce surface polarity resulting in fibres better suited for thermoplastic owing the reduction of hydroxyl groups distributed on the fibres surface. As a result, hemicellulases, pectinases, and a laccase were investigated. The removal of hemicellulose and pectic components using xylanase (with and without cellulase) and polygalacturonase, respectively, resulted in improved thermal properties and water resistance. The removal of up to 25 % (wt) of natural fibre did not significantly compromise the mechanical properties of the composite materials. This environmentally benign approach could be tailored to pretreat other feedstocks and optimized to cleave a specific amount of fibres for different composite applications.


Lignin Cellulase Hemicellulose Hemp Natural Fibre 



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, as well as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The authors are grateful to Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and Novozymes for supplying the materials needed for this study. The help for SEM imaging provided by Gayle Hatchard from the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta is much appreciated.


This study was funded by Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (Grant: AF 627).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biorefining Conversions and Fermentation Laboratory, Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional ScienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Ingenuity LabEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Advanced Materials GroupAlberta Innovates Technology FuturesEdmontonCanada

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