Natural Fibres

What are Natural Fibres?

‘Natural fibre’ is a term used to refer to the fibres that are obtained from (or are produced by) animals and plants. These fibres have a wide range of applications in the manufacture of composite materials. Paper and felt (a type of textile material) can be prepared by matting different layers of natural fibres into sheets.

Most natural fibres are known to be good absorbers of sweat and other liquids. A wide range of textures can be obtained from different natural fibers (either individually or through a combination of two or more natural fibres). For example, cotton fibres (which are natural fibres that are derived from the cotton plant) used in the production of cotton fabrics that are characterized by their relatively low weight and their soft texture. Another advantage of cotton fibre is that it can be woven into clothing of various sizes and colours. Clothing which is made up of natural fibers (like cotton) are usually preferred over the clothes that are made up of synthetic fibers, especially by the people who live in hot and humid regions.

Examples of Natural Fibres

Natural fibres are broadly classified into two categories – Plant fibres and animal fibres. Examples for both plant fibres and animal fibres have been provided in this subsection.

Plant Fibres

  • Seed fibres – the fibres obtained from the seeds of different types of plants.
  • Leaf fibres – the natural fibres that can be collected from the leaves of certain plants. Examples include pineapple and banana leaf fibres.
  • Fruit fibres – the natural fibres that are obtained from the fruit of a plant (coconut fibre, for example).
  • Stalk fibres – the natural fibres that are obtained from the stalks of certain kinds of plants. Examples include the wheat straws, bamboo fibres, fibres obtained from the stalk of rice and barley plants, and straw.
  • Bast fibres – the natural fibres that are obtained from the cells belonging to the outer layer of the stem. Examples of bast fibres include jute fibres, flax fibres, vine fibres, industrial hemp fibres, kenaf fibres, rattan fibres, and ramie fibres. It can be noted that these fibres are widely used in fabric and packaging due to their durable nature.

Animal Fibres

Animal fibres are natural fibres which usually contain proteins like fibroin, keratin, and collagen. Common examples on animal fibres are listed below.

  • Silk – animal fibres that are obtained from silkworms (different species produce different types of silk).
  • Sinew – animal fibre that connects the muscles of certain animals to their bones.
  • Wool – animal fibre that is obtained by shearing off the fur of certain breeds of sheep.
  • Mohair – animal fibre crafted from the hair of the Angora goat.

Applications of Natural Fibres

Natural fibers, including certain glass fibres, are widely used in the construction industry in certain construction materials. Such composites (can also be referred to as biocomposites), even when placed in a matrix of synthetic polymers, can still be considered as natural fibres. Cellulose fibre has a wide range of applications spanning over several industries such as the automobile and electronics industry. These natural fibres can be used for insulation and for noise-absorbing panels.

When it comes to industrial value, the four most prominent animal fibres are silk, wool, angora, and camel hair. Many plant fibres also have vital industrial applications. For example, cotton fibre is an integral raw material for the textile industry. Other important plant fibres in industry include hemp fibre, jute fibre, and flax fibre.

Furthermore, natural fibres may have applications in medicine since they can help in the manufacture of biomaterials. For example, the natural fibre Chitin can be used to remove certain toxic pollutants from industrial water discharge.

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