The project aims are to improve the utilization of the wood resource and to develop the next generation semi-structural wood-plastic composite (WPC) materials, which will overcome some of the technical limitations of current non-structural WPC (such as durability, moisture resistance and mechanical properties) for use in construction and consumer products that can be substituted for pure plastics. Incorporation of wood fibers into plastics using plastic processing equipment and technologies generally improves the stiffness of the resulting composite material; however, a reduction in the strength is generally observed. This phenomenon can be attributed to poor adhesion between the wood and plastic matrix. We will investigate how the wood fiber surface can be tailored the to improve the bonding (physical and chemical) between the wood surface and
plastic matrix to form a polymer network system and therefore realize the great potential of WPC as semi-structural materials. To achieve our research goal a core-shell structure is required by incorporation of a hydrophobic shell onto the micron sized woodfiber core. The presence of the outer hydrophobic shell promotes the miscibility with the matrix polymer. Research outcomes are to develop new technologies for making semi-structural WPC materials that can be economically incorporated by smaller and less capital-intensive companies. This research can assist in improving the utilization of waste wood and agrifiber streams for use in WPC reinforcement and reduce society's dependency on oil-based plastics.