The applications of polypropylene/carbon fiber (PP/CF) composite are hindered by the high flammability of PP substrate. This work reports a facile solvothermal method to modify CF though grafting maleic anhydride (MAH) on its surface, with the goal of enhancing the compatibility of intumescent flame retardant (IFR) with PP substrate, thus enhancing the flame-retardant and mechanical performance of the resulting PP/CF/IFR composite. The effect of maleic anhydride-g-carbon fiber (MAH-g-CF) to IFR ratio on the overall performance of the composite was assessed. The possible interactions between MAH-g-CF and IFR were characterized by dynamic thermomechanical analysis and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. Results show that when 3 wt% MAH-g-CF and 22 wt% IFR were added to the PP substrate, the composite exhibited a much lower heat release rate value and smoke suppression ability. Meanwhile, the composites achieved 26.7 MPa in tensile strength and 50.6 MPa in flexural strength. We propose that MAH on MAH-g-CF acts as a compatibilizer that improves the adhesion and cross-linking between CF and IFR, thereby enhancing mechanical strength and flame-retardancy of the PP/IFR/MAH-g-CF composite.
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