Carbon fibres are leading reinforcements in composite materials because of their outstanding mechanical and physical properties. However, the graphitic surface of these fibres is relatively inert, and the weak interaction between the carbon fibres and the polymeric matrix has negative consequences for the mechanical properties of composite materials. Surface treatments have been used to increase the surface roughness, remove contaminants or weakly bonded layers, and to alter the surface chemistry and wettability of the fibres. In this article, the authors review the effect of the microstructure on the response of the carbon fibres to the surface treatments. The observations from conventional carbon fibres and functionalisation techniques are extrapolated to plasma surface treatments and to novel carbon fibres produced from bio-precursors.
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