SUGAR PALM FIBERS

Sugar palm fiber is black in color, with diameter up to 0.50 mm.70 According to Siregar,68 sugar palm fiber has heat resistant of up to 150°C and the flash point is around 200°C. It has been reported that the fiber length of sugar palm fiber is up to 1.19 m and density is 1.26 kg/m3.71,72 Traditionally, sugar palm fiber was used as ropes, filters, broom, roof and handicraft application such as for making ‘ko — piah.’72,73 Tomlinson74 reported that the ropes made from sugar palm fiber have bet­ter performance than the ropes made from rattan fiber (Calamus sp.). The main advantages of sugar palm fiber are durable and good resistant to seawater. It is also not affected by heat and moisture compared to coir fiber. Unlike other natural fibers, sugar palm fiber can directly be obtained from the trees which do not need second­ary processes to yield the fibers.3 Due to these advantages, sugar palm fiber should be a good material in the development of new ‘green’ materials.

Sugar palm fiber locally known as ijuk is one of the most popular fiber among the researcher over the last decade. The fiber is originally wrapped along the sugar palm trunk.75 The tree can grow up to 12.3 m tall and has a thick, black/brown hairy fibrous trunk, with the dense crown of leaves, which are white on the outside. The tree begins to produce black sugar palm fiber after about 5 years, before flowering and the type of its fibers are depending to age and altitude of sugar palm tree.71 The fibers that are taken after flowering will produce fiber approximately 1.4 m long. It can yield about 15 kg for each tree and around 3 kg is very best and stiffest. In Malaysia, black sugar palm fiber started used since 1416 during Malacca Sultanate History. In 1800, the sugar palm tree was planted by British East India Company in Penang to yield its high durability of rope made from black sugar palm fiber.

Previously, the characterization (tensile and chemical properties) of single fibers from different morphological parts of sugar palm tree, that is, sugar palm frond (SPF), sugar palm bunch (SPB), ijuk and sugar palm trunk (SPT).76 From the in­vestigation, it was found that the tensile strength of ijuk was 276.64 MPa and the tensile modulus was5.86 GPa. The elongation at break of ijuk was 22.3% which was approximately the same with oil palm and coir fibers in term of physical and me­chanical properties because they were from same palmae family.77 For the chemical analysis, it was shown that ijuk has a high cellulose content which is 52.29%. This proved that mechanical properties of sugar palm fiber are strongly influenced by the cellulose content.78 Cellulose was the main structural component that provides strength and stability to the plant cell walls and the fibers.49Generally, ijuk can be used as reinforcement in composites due to higher tensile strength and cellulose content in comparison with other established natural fibers such as kenaf, pineapple leaf, coir and oil palm bunch.

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