Green materials show great potential

Propelling student research: Tezara (in red) with graduates from INTI’s Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering programme.

A TEAM from INTI International University have completed their research project aimed at improving materials used in manufacturing through green technologies.

The purpose of the study was to replace synthetic fibres and reduce the usage of polymers in manufacturing applications – in response to Malaysia’s National Green Technology Policy, the varsity said in a press release.

The research by an academician and her five undergraduates was submitted to two ISI papers this year, namely, the International Journal of Precision Engineering and Manufacturing-Green Technology, and the Journal of Polymer Research.Looking to natural resources that are closer to home, Assoc Prof Dr Tezara Cionita studied the effects of pure or hybrid jute and ramie as potential reinforcements for polymer composites.

The Faculty of Engineering and Quantity Surveying lecturer said one of the challenges in manufacturing is that the materials used are often synthetic.

“They produce significant pollutants upon manufacture. As breaking down naturally is almost impossible, these materials lead to increase in landfills and long-term environmental pollution.

“As we progress as a species, so too must improve our practices and how we use resources, ” she said.

According to Tezara, jute and ramie are popular natural fibres for composite reinforcement for thermoplastic or thermosetting matrix polymers.

“They generate a diverse range of results as they are non-abrasive, low density, and possess good mechanical properties including tensile and flexural strength.

“Jute and ramie are also biodegradable, renewable, and economical – making it easier for these materials to break down and minimise long-term environmental impact, ” she explained.

As natural fibres have greater limitations than synthetic materials, Tezara, who received a seed grant from INTI International University for the project, said the team’s focus was to study how reinforced single or hybrid composite laminates differ, and how hybrid composites that comprise two or more natural fibres, instead of a single composite, would enhance the structures’ mechanical properties.

“Stacking sequences, fibre orientations and alkali treatment were among the test parameters conducted as part of the study.

“We hope the findings from this study will increase interest in natural fibres and lead to the development of better composites leveraging on the latest technologies.

“This is one of the ways through which manufacturing can move towards greener resources and, in the long term, improve the sustainability of these processes, ” Tezara shared.

She added that she was grateful the project was completed before the movement control order was announced, as the students needed both the lab and workshop facility to conduct their research.

With close to 22 years of experience in the field of mechanical engineering, Tezara has supervised 70 undergraduates in numerous research projects.

The accomplished researcher has produced over 35 publications with an H-Index of eight in citation database Scopus, focusing on the areas of indoor air quality, environmental safety and health, natural fibre composites, and polymer materials.

On her next project, Tezara said she plans to study the utilisation of the hybrid woven jute-ramie reinforced unsaturated polyester composite as an alternative to synthetic materials for personal protective equipment, particularly in bicycling applications.

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