AbstractThis paper describes an investigation of the influences of chlorine dioxide treatment on fibre surface lignin. The fibre surface characteristics and the interfacial behaviour of the sisal fibre/phenolic resin composites were also studied by SEM, AFM, and XPS. The results show that the surface of the untreated fibre contains a large amount of lignin with granular structure and non-granular structure. The surface lignin concentration is up to 51% for the untreated fibre, and then it decreases to 24% and 20% for fibres treated with 1.5 % and 2.0% chlorine dioxide, respectively. The removal of lignin from the fibre surface can enhance the interfacial strength of the composites, giving rise to increases by 36% and 28% in tensile strength and internal bonding strength. These results indicate that the surface properties of single sisal fibres can be tailored to improve the fibre/resin interface. Chlorine dioxide treatment has potential for surface modification of sisal fibre in engineering the interfacial behaviour of composites.