The Achilles heel of thermoplastic natural fibre composites is their limited durability. The environmental degradation of the mechanical properties of hemp and hemp/basalt hybrid-reinforced high-density polyethylene (HDPE) composites has been investigated with a special focus on the effects of water ageing and accelerated ageing, including hygrothermal and UV radiation. Modification of the matrix was carried out using a maleic anhydride high-density polyethylene copolymer (MAPE) as a compatibilizer. Hybridization of hemp fibres with basalt fibres and the incorporation of MAPE were found to significantly decrease the water uptake (up to 75%) and increase the retention of mechanical properties after accelerated ageing. Secondary crystallization phenomena occurring in the composites, as confirmed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analysis, were able to counteract the severe combined effects of hygrothermal stress and UV radiation, with the exception of hemp-fibre composites where permanent damage to the fibres occurred, with 2% and 20% reduction in tensile strength and modulus, respectively, for a 30 wt % hemp fibre-reinforced HDPE.
- Polymer-matrix composites (PMCs)
- Environmental degradation
- Natural Fibers
- Basalt fiber reinforced polymers
- Hemp fibers