Influence of microwave plasma treatment on the surface properties of carbon fibers and their adhesion in a polypropylene matrix
A commercially available carbon fiber (CF) with an epoxy-based sizing (EP-sized CF) and an unsized CF have been plasma treated to study the effect on the fiber-matrix adhesion towards a polypropylene matrix. The EP-sized fiber was chosen because of its predictable low adhesion in a polypropylene (PP) matrix. The fibers have been modified using a microwave low-pressure O 2/CO 2/N 2-gas plasma source (Cyrannusreg) developed at IWS in a batch process. One aim of this study was the evaluation of parameters using high energies and short time periods in the plasma chamber to see the effect on mechanical performance of CF. These results will be the fundamental work for a planned continuous plasma modification line. The CF surface was characterized by determining the surface energies, single fiber tensile strength and XPS analysis. The adhesion behavior before and after plasma treatment was studied by single fiber pull-out test (SFPO) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). It was shown that the CO 2- and O 2-plasma increases the number of functional groups on the fiber surface during short time plasma treatment of 30 s. Carboxylic groups on the unsized CF surface resulting from O 2-plasma treatment lead to an enhanced fiber-matrix adhesion, whereas the fiber strength was merely reduced.