Quantitative assessment and visualisation of the Wood and Poly(Lactic Acid) Interface in sandwich laminate composites
Fluorescence microscopy was applied to understand adhesion interfaces developed within laminated composite sandwiches formed between poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and wood veneers. Composites formed with maple veneer had greater tensile bond strength when manufactured at 200 °C (10.4 N/mm2) compared to formation at 140 °C (8.7 N/mm2), while significantly lower bond strength was achieved using spruce veneers, at 5.2 and 3.5 N/mm2, respectively. Qualitative and quantitative confocal microscopy assessments revealed differing bondline thicknesses and PLA ingress within the wood ultrastructure. Forming maple veneer composites at 200 °C promoted greater PLA mobility away from the bondline to reinforce the wood–PLA interface and deliver associated greater composite bond strength. The addition of 25% wood fibre to PLA led to fibre alignment and overlap within bondlines contributing to relatively thicker, heterogeneous bondlines. Study outcomes show that the composite processing temperature impacts the adhesion interface and composite performance and will have broad application over veneer overlays, laminates and wood plastic composites (WPCs) using wood, particles or fibres with PLA.