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Fibers

Slide 1

Fibers

In this section, we will discuss the basic building block of all textile materials, the fiber. Well learn basic properties common to all fibers as well as
properties that can vary for specific fibers. Well learn how fibers are classified and see how their chemical composition and structure can affect
their behavior. Well also see how fiber properties can affect yarn, fabric, and end-use products.
Before we can learn about specific fiber types, we need to spend some time discussing information that can be applied to all fiber types, including
fiber definitions and classifications, general textile nomenclature, and yes, even a little bit of chemistry. After all, fibers are chemicals! But dont
worry, it will be fun!

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 2

What Is a Fiber?
Basic structural material of clothing, domestic, and industrial textile
products
Sources of fibers:
Naturally occurring
Man-made from naturally existing materials
Man-made from basic organic or inorganic components
Fiber Characteristics:
High length to diameter ratio (at least 1000:1)
Low bending rigidity
Small diameter (10 to 200 microns)

Think about the following questions:

Can you visualize a fiber?

What size is it?

Where do fibers come from?


Before we consider how to define and characterize a fiber, lets consider the nomenclature of textile processing. Lets call the final product a fabric.
If we start to break down a knitted or woven fabric into its components, we call those components yarns. Now lets break down the yarn into its
components, which are fibers.
Lets now complicate matters by considering a type of fabric that is not woven or knitted and that we will call a nonwoven material. If we break
down a nonwoven fabric into its direct components, we have fibers. A nonwoven material is made by converting fibers directly into fabric and
bypassing the intermediate yarn step. You will learn much more about nonwovens, as well as yarn manufacturing, weaving, and knitting, in other
modules of the Textile Fundamentals course.
We will consider a fiber to be the basic building block of all textile materials. But what are the building blocks of fibers? If you said polymers, you
are correct. We are now delving into the range beyond which our eyes can see. Polymers are actually very large, chain-like molecules. They are
considered large by molecular standards but are still very small by our visual standards. We cant really even see them with the most powerful
microscopes available! Well talk more about polymers a little later.
Lets talk about the sources of fibers, of which there are three categories. Fibers can be naturally occurring, meaning that Mother Nature provides
them to us in fiber form. Think of some examples of these fibers. The most abundant fiber in this category is cotton. Cotton is a seed-hair fiber
from the cotton plant. Other examples of natural fibers would be the animal hair fibers wool, cashmere, mohair, and camel, to name a few.
The second category of fibers would be those that require processing to convert them to fiber form even though the raw materials come from
nature. These fibers are thus considered to be man-made from natural sources. A good example of a fiber in this category is rayon. Rayon is
derived from wood pulp, but the wood pulp must be processed and extruded into fiber form. Other examples of this category would be acetate,
triacetate, and PLA fibers. As with rayon, acetate and triacetate are derived from wood pulp, while PLA, which stands for poly (lactic acid), is made
from corn starch.
The final category of fibers is the truly synthetic fibers. These fibers are made from polymers than can be synthesized from basic chemical
components. Examples here would be polyester and nylon.
Now that we know the sources of fibers, we need to determine the properties that a material must possess in order to be called a fiber. A material
should possess all three of the characteristics listed to meet the requirements. Many materials meet the first two requirements theyre long and

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Fibers
skinny and can bend without breaking but the third requirement eliminates many candidates. Fibers are very small objects, with a typical
diameter of 20 to 30 microns. A typical cotton fiber would be slightly longer than one inch (or 25 millimeters) long, and it would be much, much
finer than your own hair. One micron is one one-thousandth of a millimeter. 25 microns is just about the minimum limit of what the human eye
can see, so a fiber of this diameter would be just barely visible to most people.
Rather than defining fiber size by diameter, we typically use the term denier. Denier has units of mass per length, also called linear density, and is
defined as the number of grams per 9,000 meters of fiber. A polyester fiber with a diameter of 25 microns would have a denier value of around 4.
This means that 9,000 meters of this fiber would weigh a total of four grams! On the next slide, we will look at the relative sizes of several types of
fibers and see what the term microfiber tells us about a fibers size.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 3

Microfibers
Microfibers are generally defined as fibers of
less than one denier per filament (dpf).
Microfibers can generally be produced by
direct spinning methods but may require bicomponent technology (e.g. segmented
pie) for production.
Comparisons:
Human Hair
Wool
Cotton
Silk
Microfiber
Ultra Microfiber

30 50 dpf
4 6 dpf
1.4 1.6 dpf
1.1 1.2 dpf
less than 1.0 dpf
less than 0.2 dpf

Have you ever bought a garment that had a label advertising it as being made from microfibers? Think of the characteristics claimed by the
garment label or that you observed in the garment. While youre thinking, lets look at the sizes of some typical fibers. Your own hair, with a
diameter of 30 to 50 denier per filament, is considered very coarse by fiber standards. By extension, wool fibers are somewhat coarse compared to
other fibers. Cotton and silk are some of the finest naturally occurring fibers, both approaching one denier per filament. We define the term
microfiber to mean a fiber less than one denier per filament. When you hear that term used, that will tell you that you are dealing with synthetic
fibers, generally polyester or nylon. These fibers can be engineered during the extrusion process to be very small in diameter. The smaller the
diameter of the fiber, the lower the denier. These smaller fibers are sometimes difficult to produce by conventional extrusion methods, in which a
liquid (either a solution or a molten polymer) is forced through tiny holes in a spinneret to form filaments. (Well discuss the extrusion process in
more detail later.) Special processes, examples of which are segmented pie and islands-in the-sea technology, may be needed to produce
microfibers. In these processes, the target fiber is extruded within a matrix of another polymer, followed by removal of the matrix by dissolution or
other means. Here we see an illustration of the segmented pie technology, in which the pie-shaped microfibers can be seen pulling away from the
star-shaped matrix polymer.
Now lets return to the question of the characteristics of products made from microfibers. The fabrics generally have a much softer hand and are
more breathable and comfortable to wear than fabrics made from larger fibers of the same type. Fabrics that resemble suede can be made from
microfibers. One reason for the soft hand is, that for a given weight of fabric, a microfiber fabric would have more exposed surface area than a
conventional fabric.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 4

Microfibers vs. Conventional Fibers

Look at this photograph of two fabrics, both made of nylon and dyed in the same dyebath. By the way, these fabrics are nonwoven, and their
weights are comparable. One of the fabrics is made from microfibers, and the other is not. Can you predict which fabric is made from microfibers
based on the color of the fabrics? If you were able to hold these fabrics in your hand, you would easily know which side was made from
microfibers because of the soft, suede-like hand, but can you guess just from the shade appearance? If you said the lighter side was made from
microfibers, you are correct. Because both fabrics were dyed in the same dyebath at the same time and are of comparable weights, we can
assume that each fabric has the same percentage of dye per unit weight of fabric. The microfiber side appears lighter to your eyes because the
finer fibers create more surface area and therefore more scattering of reflected light, resulting in a lighter shade.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 5

Polymerization
Mono:
Mer:
Poly:

One
Unit
Many

Polymerization is the linking of many small


molecules (monomers) to form a long, chain-like
molecule (polymer).

Now its time for our chemistry lesson. We mentioned the word polymer earlier. Polymers are the molecular building blocks of fibers. Polymers
are long, chain-like molecules, and their structure is the chemical composition of the fiber. The word polymer literally means many units.
Polymers are formed when many monomers react with each other to create a very long molecule.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 6

Polymerization Animation

For example, in the making of polyester, two starting chemicals that well call A and B react with each other to form an AB unit. This AB monomer
unit can react with other AB units over and over again until we have a long chain of AB units connected to each other. This process is called
polymerization. AB is called the repeat unit, and the number of times it repeats is called the degree of polymerization. The degree of
polymerization could be several thousand or more.

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Fibers
Slide 7

In the diagram shown on the slide, each tiny circle represents a repeat unit of the polymer. These drawings represent how a polymer chain may be
arranged inside the fiber. Consider one fiber, which is very small itself, and think about how many polymer chains are inside that fiber. The answer
is billions! The arrangement of these chains inside the fiber plays an important role in determining the properties of that fiber. To visualize the
behavior of the polymer chains, lets think of them as spaghetti strands. In some regions of the fiber, the polymers behave as uncooked spaghetti.
Imagine holding a bunch of uncooked spaghetti in your fist. The strands are straight and rigid and can pack tightly together. In the fiber, these
regions are called crystallinity. We can see these crystalline regions in the diagram. Think of some fiber properties that would be enhanced or
determined by crystallinity. Some possible answers here would be strength, stiffness or modulus, toughness, and melting point.
Returning to our spaghetti analogy, lets imagine the behavior of cooked spaghetti. The strands are now soft and flexible and can move around,
leaving space between each strand. The regions in the fiber where the polymer chains behave this way, especially at higher temperatures, are
called amorphous regions. Note the amorphous regions in the fiber diagrams. Some fiber properties enhanced by the amorphous regions are
flexibility, extension, and dyeability. Dye molecules can not penetrate crystalline regions of a fiber. This is why Kevlar, a highly crystalline fiber,
cant be dyed by conventional means.
Also note in the diagram how the same polymer chain can wind through several crystalline and amorphous regions. This in part explains why fibers
can be at the same time both strong and flexible.
Another important property related to the arrangement of polymer chains is orientation. Orientation refers to the alignment of the crystalline
regions in the fiber. In the diagram on the left, the crystalline regions are all aligned parallel to the fiber axis, resulting in a high degree of
orientation. The fiber on the right exhibits low orientation. In general, higher orientation contributes to higher strength in the fiber.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 8

Fiber Properties Depend On:


Chemical composition of the polymer
Arrangement of polymer molecules

To summarize, we can say that the properties of a fiber will be influenced primarily by two factors: (1) its chemical composition, in other words,
what is the chemical composition of the polymer? and (2) the arrangement of the polymer chains inside the fiber. Well cover typical fiber
properties and how they are influenced by these factors in the following slides.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 9

Polymer Terms Related to Fiber Properties


Homopolymer
Copolymer
Degree of polymerization
Molecular weight
Orientation
Crystalline
Amorphous

Here we see a list of terms relating to polymers. We have already covered some of these such as crystalline and amorphous. Lets give a brief
definition of each of these terms, including those we have already covered.
A homopolymer is one in which all the repeat units are the same and made from the same monomer unit. Most of the fibers commonly used in
textiles are considered to be composed of homopolymers. Examples would be cotton, made from cellulose, and polyester, typically made from a
polymer called poly(ethylene terephthalate).
A copolymer is made up of repeat units of two or more types of monomers. The copolymers can be classified as alternating, random, block, or
branched, depending on their structure. Examples of textile fibers that would be considered copolymers are acrylics, modacrylics, and spandex.
The degree of polymerization is the number of times the monomer unit repeats in the polymer chain. Thus, a high degree of polymerization results
in a longer chain and also in a higher polymer molecular weight, which is defined as the molecular weight of the monomer unit multiplied by the
degree of polymerization. In general, for a given polymer type, a higher molecular weight results in a stronger fiber.
Orientation refers to the alignment of the polymer chains along the direction of the length of the fiber, which also contributes to fiber strength.
Crystalline regions of the fiber are those in which the polymer chains are aligned and packed tightly together, whereas amorphous regions are
those where the chains are non-crystalline and more randomly distributed, resulting in a more open structure. Orientation and crystallinity also
contribute to fiber strength.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 10

Textile Product Character


The character or personality of any textile structure or end-use product, i.e.,
its appearance, texture, hand, wear performance, mechanical properties,
etc., is generally influenced by four factors:
The fiber or blend of fibers used
Yarn structure or structures size, twist, etc.
Fabric structure weave, knit, non-woven
Type of finish or finishes color added, chemical and/or mechanical finish

We have talked in very technical terms about fiber structure, but these considerations also have very practical applications. Lets consider, for
example, two fibers that have the same chemical composition but have different physical properties cotton and rayon. Both are made of the
polymer cellulose. However, clothing made from 100% rayon will typically have a care label advising dry-clean only, whereas 100% cotton is most
always machine washable. Why the difference? The reason rayon should be dry-cleaned is because its tensile strength is less than half that of
cotton, and it becomes even weaker in the wet state. Why would two fibers made of the same polymer have such different strength properties?
The reason is the internal structure and arrangement of the polymer molecules! Cotton is approximately 80% crystalline, whereas conventional
rayon is around 30% crystalline. We know that higher crystallinity generally translates to a stronger fiber. Now can you predict which of these two
fibers (in comparable constructions and weights) would dye to a darker shade if placed in the same dyebath? Because both fibers are chemically
the same, they are dyed with the same classes of dyes, but rayon would dye to a darker shade than cotton because of its amorphous, more open
structure.
This is but one example of how fiber properties are an important contributor to the properties of the end-use textile product. Those fiber
properties influence yarn properties which then influence fabric properties. Fabric is dyed to give color and finished to give other desired
properties. Any problems or defects in the finished goods could therefore have originated at one or more or many steps of the manufacturing
process. For example, in the production of a man-made fiber, problems with the control of the crystallinity level in the fiber could lead to
variability of the dye uptake in that fiber. This would show up in the final fabric as streakiness. When diagnosing problems in a textile product, its
always good to have as much information as possible about all of the manufacturing history of that product.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 11

Yarn Examples

Although this is a topic that is covered in great detail in another module, here is a photograph of different types of yarns illustrating the difference
between staple fibers and continuous filaments. The top yarn is a spun yarn, made of short lengths of fiber, or staple fiber. These fibers must be
twisted together to form a yarn structure that will hold together and have acceptable strength. Note the many fibers protruding from the yarn
structure. This is called hairiness and is a characteristic of spun yarns.
The lower two yarns are filament yarns and are bundles of long, continuous strands of fiber, or filaments. The middle yarn is called a flat filament
yarn. The bottom yarn is a filament yarn that has been through a process called texturing, in which crimp and bulk have been imparted. Nontextured filament yarns are smoother and have a more lustrous appearance than spun yarns, and the texturing process makes a filament yarn
behave more like a spun yarn. A comparison of the properties of spun versus flat filament yarns is shown on the slide. The properties of textured
yarns would fall somewhere in between spun and flat filament yarns. In general, spun yarns are softer, bulkier, and more absorbent than filament
yarns. You will learn much more about yarns in a separate module.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 12

Fiber Usefulness
The following factors influence the use of a particular fiber in a textile:

Ability of a fiber to be converted to a yarn and then to a finished product


Availability of the fiber
Cost or economics of production
Public acceptability and demand

Here we see factors that must be considered when trying to introduce a new fiber to the marketplace. To be a useful textile fiber, all four factors
must be considered. The fiber must be able to withstand the mechanical and thermal rigors of textile processing, it must come from a readily
available source, it must be economically feasible to produce, and it must be something that people will want to buy. A good example of a fiber
that, at one time or another, did not meet one or more of these criteria is colored cotton. Naturally-colored cotton varieties, in shades of green
and brown, have been in existence for centuries, but the fibers from these plants were too short and too weak to be spun into yarns. In the early
nineteen eighties, a scientist named Sally Fox was able to breed colored cotton varieties with longer, stronger fibers that could be processed into
yarns. However, the cost per pound of these fibers was approximately ten times that of conventional cream-colored cotton fibers. Even given the
cost savings of eliminating the dyeing step, this fiber just was not an economically viable product and today is targeted only to a niche market.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 13

Important Fiber Properties (primary)


Fibrous materials should possess certain properties for them to be useful as textile raw
materials. Those properties which are essential for acceptance as a suitable raw material may
be classified as primary properties, while those which add specific desirable character or
aesthetics to the end product and its use may be classified as secondary properties.
Primary Properties

Length and length distribution


Tensile properties (tenacity, elongation, modulus)
Flexibility (pliability)
Cohesion
Uniformity of properties

Secondary Properties

Appearance (shape, cross section, birefringence)


Crimp
Dyeability
Fineness (linear density)
Flammability
Luster
Moisture regain (comfort, static, etc.)
Solubility and chemical resistance
Specific gravity (influences weight, cover, etc.)
Thermal properties (Tg, Tm) and flammability

On this slide, we have listed some of the more important fiber properties that can be measured in a suitably equipped laboratory. Later in the
discussion, you will be given values for some of these properties for specific fiber types, but for now we would just like to discuss how these
properties are defined and how they are generally applied to all fibers. We have separated the properties into two groups: the primary properties
are those that are essential for a textile fiber to possess, and the secondary properties are those that enhance the performance or aesthetics of a
product made from the fiber.
The primary properties, such as length, strength, flexibility, and cohesion relate to a fibers ability to be processed into a yarn. It is especially
important to know the distribution of lengths in a natural fiber sample such as cotton. Nature does not provide us with fibers from the cotton plant
that are all uniform in length. For American Upland cotton, the fibers will range from less than one-half inch to over 1-1/4 inches. The average
length and the distribution of lengths will affect the strength and evenness of a staple yarn spun from those fibers. In general, longer staple lengths
will produce better quality yarns. For cotton, staple length is measured on a machine called an HVI, or High Volume Instrument.
Lets also define the tensile properties of tenacity, elongation, and modulus. These properties are all measured by a machine that can grip each
end of the fiber and pull it lengthwise until it breaks. In doing this, the machine will generate a graph plotting the force needed to pull the fiber
versus the actual extension of the fiber. You may sometimes hear this referred to as a load-elongation curve or a stress-strain curve. Each type of
fiber will have a characteristic shape to its stress-strain curve.
The tenacity of a fiber is a measure of its strength and it is defined as the load or the force, usually expressed in grams, to break the fiber divided by
the linear density of the fiber. Earlier, we said that denier was a typical way to express linear density, so typical units of tenacity would be grams
per denier. Recall that denier is the number of grams per 9,000 meters. Sometimes, particularly for cotton fibers, tenacity is expressed as grams
per tex. Tex is defined as the number of grams per 1,000 meters. Elongation of the fiber would be the distance the fiber extends, or stretches,
divided by the original gauge length of the fiber. Modulus is a term for the stiffness of the fiber as measured by the initial slope of the stress strain
curve. A very stiff fiber would require a high force to cause very low elongation, which would be represented by a steep slope. Can you think of an
example of a high modulus fiber? Examples would be Kevlar or fiberglass. An example of a very low modulus fiber would be spandex, which
requires very little force to extend quite a bit.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 14

Secondary Fiber Properties


Secondary Properties

Appearance (shape, cross section, birefringence)


Crimp
Dyeability
Fineness (linear density)
Flammability
Luster
Moisture regain (comfort, static, etc.)
Solubility and chemical resistance
Specific gravity (influences weight, cover, etc.)
Thermal properties (Tg, Tm) and flammability

You can see the secondary properties listed here, of which we will mention a couple. The luster of a fiber refers to its ability to reflect, absorb, or
transmit light. We have very little control over the luster of natural fibers, although we can do a process called mercerization of cotton to affect its
luster. You will learn about mercerization in another module. For man-made fibers, however, we can control fiber luster by the addition of a white
pigment called titanium dioxide, which is sometimes referred to as a delustrant. The delustrant is responsible for the speckled appearance of the
polyester fiber in the following photograph.
Man-made fibers can be described as bright, semi-dull, or dull, depending upon the amount of delustrant that has been added. Bright fibers have
no delustrant added and have an appearance similar to monofilament fishing line. Fibers are, after all, plastics in filament form. Dull fibers would
have up to two percent delustrant on the weight of the fiber and would appear white.
Finally, moisture regain is an important fiber property that determines whether a fiber is classified as hydrophilic (water-loving) or hydrophobic
(water-hating). This property is largely dependent on the chemical nature of the fiber, or in other words, the polymer of which it is made.
Moisture regain of a fiber has a large influence on the comfort properties of that fiber. In general, hydrophilic fibers are more comfortable to wear.
Cotton is a hydrophilic fiber whose moisture regain is around 8.5%. In order to define moisture regain, we need to define standard conditions of
temperature and humidity for a textile testing laboratory. A testing lab should be 70 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus two degrees and 65 percent
relative humidity plus or minus two percent. These standard conditions ensure consistency in testing between labs and within the same lab over
time because test results could vary with the moisture level in a sample. Moisture regain is defined as the amount of moisture in a fiber sample
expressed as a percentage of its bone-dry weight. Moisture regain is always measured under standard conditions of temperature and humidity.
Hydrophilic fibers have higher values of moisture regain. For example the moisture regain of cotton is around 8.5% and of rayon is anywhere from
11 to 16%. Based on what you have learned about the structure of cotton and rayon, think about possible reasons that the moisture regain of
rayon is higher than that of cotton even though the two fibers are made of the same polymer cellulose. A hydrophobic fiber such as polyester
has a moisture regain of less than one percent. Polyester is hydrophobic because its polymer molecules have little or no chemical attraction to
water molecules.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 15

Fibers can have various shapes and configurations, some of which you see pictured here. Most fibers have a round cross-sectional shape, but there
are also triangular and multilobal fibers. Some fibers have smooth edges and others are serrated. Fibers can sometimes, but not always, be
identified by their shape and appearance under a microscope. Cotton can usually be identified by looking at the twists or convolutions that are
characteristic only of cotton. These can be observed in a longitudinal view of the fiber under a microscope. Cotton also has a unique kidneyshaped cross-section. Most animal hair fibers are characterized by scales that are visible in a longitudinal view, but an experienced observer would
be required to differentiate between different types of animal hair fibers, for example, wool and cashmere. Most synthetic fibers are difficult to
positively identify under a microscope based on their shape alone because most are round. Other optical techniques such as measurement of
birefringence must be used.
The shape of a fiber can affect the luster, appearance, and stiffness of the end-use fabric.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 16

Textile Fibers Classification


Textile Fibers
Natural
Cellulose
Bast
Flax
Hemp
Jute
Ramie
Leaf
Manila
Sisal
Seed Hair
Cotton
Kapok

Man-Made

Protein

Mineral

Organic

Inorganic
Glass*
Metallic*

Asbestos
Staple
Alpaca
Camel
Cashmere
Llama
Mohair
Vicuna
Wool

Natural
Polymer

Filament
Silk

Cellulose Base
Rayon*
Lyocell*
Acetate*
Triacetate*
Protein Base
Azlon*
Rubber*
Natural Sugars Base
PLA*

*Generic classification based on chemical composition as defined by the


Textile Fiber Products Identification Act.

Synthetic
Polymer
Acrylic*
Anidex*
Aramid*
Elastoester*
Fluoropolymer*
Lastrile*
Melamine*
Modacrylic*
Novoloid*
Nylon*
Nytril*
Olefin*
PBI*
Polyester*
Rubber* (Synthetic)
Saran*
Spandex*
Sulfar*
Vinal*
Vinyon*

The organizational chart that you see here shows textile fibers categorized by the three sources that we discussed earlier: natural, man-made from
natural sources, and man-made from basic chemicals. This chart shows natural fibers as well as all the generic classes of man-made fibers as
defined by the Federal Trade Commission under the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. Each generic fiber class is defined by the chemical
composition of the fiber. The names of the generic fiber types are denoted on the chart by an asterisk (*). No registered trademarks appear on the
chart. The most recent fiber class to be recognized by the FTC is PLA, which stands for poly(lactic acid) that is derived from naturally-occurring
sugars such as corn starch. It was recognized in 2002.
Lets look at the breakdown of the chart. The first division is between natural and man-made fibers. All the fibers under the Natural category
appear in nature in fiber form. The sources of these natural fibers can be plant (cellulose-based fibers), animal (protein-based fibers, generally
from animal hair), or mineral (asbestos). Focusing on the plant fibers, we see that they can come from the stem, leaf, or seed hair of the plant.
Fibers that come from the stem of the plant are called bast fibers. Regardless of their origination on the plant, all these fibers are composed of
cellulose. The most important of the cellulose fibers is, of course, cotton, but other fibers in this category include flax, hemp, jute, and ramie.
Moving now to the protein-based fibers, we see that they are divided into categories of Staple and Filament. Silk is the only naturally-occurring
fiber that is produced in continuous filament form. The fiber is obtained by unwinding the cocoon of the silkworm in a process called reeling.
Continuous lengths of up to 600 meters can be recovered, although shorter, staple fibers are obtained as well. Silk is processed into both
continuous filament and spun yarns.
Under the staple fiber category, we see all the animal hair fibers, including wool, alpaca, and cashmere. Depending on the length of the hair on the
animal, the staple lengths could be up to ten to fifteen inches, but all the animal hair fibers must be processed into spun yarns. The term worsted
describes a spinning system for wool that can accommodate longer staple fibers of two to nine inches.
Now lets examine the man-made categories. Note that all the fiber names listed under the man-made heading are followed by an asterisk, which
as you recall denotes recognition by the Federal Trade Commission as a generic fiber class. In a subsequent slide, you will see abbreviated
definitions of each fiber class, which are based on chemical composition.
The first division under man-made is between organic and inorganic fibers. Here we define the word organic to mean that the polymer contains
the element carbon in its structure. In this sense of the word, most fibers are organic, with the exceptions being fiberglass and metallic fibers,
which are considered inorganic. Under the organic classification, we find the other two categories of our three sources of fibers: the natural-based
man-made fibers and the truly synthetic fibers.
Do you recall the naturally-occurring raw material from which rayon is made? It is wood pulp, which is composed of cellulose. Man-made fibers
made or derived from wood pulp include rayon, lyocell (which you may know by its trade name - Tencel), acetate, and triacetate. Earlier, we

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
mentioned PLA fiber, which is derived from corn starch. Neither wood pulp nor corn starch are fibrous in their naturally-occurring state, so we
must process them and extrude them into fiber form, which is why these fibers are categorized as man-made.
Finally, there are twenty generic fiber classes under the synthetic polymer category. These include such familiar names as acrylic, nylon, olefin, and
polyester. Each generic fiber name can have one or more registered trademark names. For categories such as nylon or polyester, there may be
hundreds of trade names and types.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 17

Natural Fiber Properties

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 18

We have covered a lot of general fiber information that can be applied to all fibers. Now we will look at some specific fibers and their properties,
starting with the natural fibers of cotton, flax, wool, and silk.
Cotton is a seed hair fiber. Here we see the stages of development of the cotton fibers on the plant from full bloom through the opening of the
cotton boll. One boll of cotton produces from 24 to 45 seeds, with each seed producing 10,000 to 20,000 fibers. A bale of cotton, which weighs
about 500 pounds, contains approximately 145,000 bolls.
As the fiber develops before opening of the boll, it first forms an outer, primary wall, followed by development of an inner, secondary wall that is
composed of cellulose. In a mature cotton fiber, the secondary wall should be well-developed. After the boll opens, the fibers die and dry out.
The round cross section becomes flatter and kidney shaped, and the fiber twists into its characteristic convoluted shape. Immature fibers are
caused by drying of the fiber before the secondary wall is fully developed. Immature fibers have very flat cross-sections and appear ribbon-like
when viewed under a microscope.
Once the boll has opened and dried, the cotton is ready for harvesting.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 19

Cotton Harvesting

Cotton is harvested mechanically by one of two kinds of machines: cotton pickers or cotton strippers. A cotton picker is pictured here. The picker
heads contain a series of spindles covered with barbs that remove the cotton fibers from the boll. The fibers, called seed cotton because they still
contain the seeds, are conveyed pneumatically into a basket for collection. In the photograph, there are four picker heads on the lower front of the
machine.
The second type of harvester is a cotton stripper. For this type, the plants are killed by frost or chemical defoliant before harvesting, and the
stripper removes the boll and fibers by two counter-rotating rolls. Only the dry stalks remain in the field. Augers and pneumatic conveyors
transfer the seed cotton to the collection baskets. The trash content, which refers primarily to residual pieces of the cotton plant, of the seed
cotton is higher for cotton strippers than for cotton pickers.
The baskets of seed cotton are transferred to a module builder, a metal box that allows the packing of an eight- to twelve-bale module in the field.
Once full, the module builder is removed, and the module is picked up by a truck and transported to the gin for removal of seeds.
In some parts of the world, cotton is still harvested by hand, resulting in a very low trash content, but this represents a small percentage of
worldwide cotton production.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 20

Cotton Ginning

The ginning process separates the seeds from the cotton fibers, cleans the fibers, and allows for the recovery and sale of both commodities. The
seeds can be used for cattle feed, production of cottonseed oil, or for planting next years cotton crop. The fibers from the gin are pressed into
500-pound bales for textile production. Ideally, the gin will cause minimal damage to the cotton fibers.
Pictured here are two gin stands, where seed and fiber separation is accomplished by rotating saw blades and doffer brushes. Seed cotton enters
the top of the machine, and separated seeds and fibers are conveyed from the bottom.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 21

Instrumental Classification of Cotton


High Volume Instrument (HVI) measures the following properties:
Grade
Trash Content
Color

Fineness (Micronaire)
Strength
Staple Length and Length Uniformity

After ginning, samples of fiber are taken from each bale of cotton for classification. The samples are tested on an instrument called an HVI, which
stands for High Volume Instrument. In the United States, samples from every bale of cotton produced are sent to one of 12 cotton classing
facilities operated by the US Department of Agriculture for HVI classification. The cotton is assigned a grade based on trash content and fiber color.
The grade is a two-digit number, in which the first digit represents trash content, sometimes called leaf content, and the second digit represents
color. The first number ranges from 1 to 8, and the second number can range from 1 to 6. The USDA maintains and provides physical standards for
15 of the 25 possible color grades for American Upland Cotton. We will see illustrations of some of these boxes in the next slide. Before the
advent of HVI equipment, color grade was assigned by visual assessment, but modern equipment uses optical sensors to measure values for
yellowness and reflectance of the cotton sample, which are then converted to the two-digit color grade. For each digit, the lower the number, the
better the grade and the higher cost per pound.
In addition to the color grade, the HVI measures fineness, length, and strength of the cotton sample. The fineness of the cotton is measured in
micronaire, which stands for micrograms per inch. The micronaire value for cotton is determined by fiber size and maturity. The measurement of
micronaire by an HVI is based on the resistance to air flow of a known mass of cotton fibers compressed to a constant volume.
The measurement of length by the HVI is based on the array principle. Here we see a picture of a cotton fiber array, in which the fibers in a sample
have been arranged from longest to shortest. The HVI scans a randomly-distributed sampling of fibers that have been straightened and made to lie
parallel to each other. This is called a sample beard. The HVI can detect the various lengths of fibers in the sample and can generate an array curve
without having to physically rearrange the fibers. Based on this array curve, the HVI reports average fiber length as the upper half mean length,
which is the average length of the longest 50% of the fibers in the sample. It also reports uniformity index, which is a measure of the distribution of
lengths and is the mean length expressed as a percentage of the upper half mean length. The higher the uniformity index, the better the
uniformity in the sample. Uniformity index would never exceed 100%, and its average value is around 80%.
Finally, after the length scan is made, the HVI will clamp both sides of the sample beard and determine the force to break the fibers. Strength is
reported in tenacity units of grams per tex. Tex is a unit of linear density and is the number of grams of fiber per 1,000 meters. Recall that denier is
the number of grams per 9,000 meters. In general, stronger fibers will produce stronger yarns.
Newer models of HVI will also measure maturity of the cotton. Immature cotton, which is a result of poor development of the secondary wall of
the fiber, can often go undetected until the fiber has been made into fabric and dyed. It will then show up as white, undyed spots on the fabric.
Thus, it is very useful to know whether a cotton fiber sample has a high percentage of immature fibers before it is processed.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 22

Cotton Grade Boxes

Here we see an illustration of three of the USDA Color Grade standards for American Upland cotton. American Upland is the variety of cotton most
commonly grown in the United States. Pima is another cotton variety that has different standards. The color grade for Pima is still determined
visually by highly trained observers. Pima fibers are generally longer and finer that Upland cotton fibers.
Illustrated here are standards for 11 (pronounced one-one), 41 (pronounced four-one), and 44 (four-four) cotton. Recall that the first digit
represents trash content and the second digit represents fiber color. The 11 box is high quality cotton with low trash and creamy white colored
fibers. Trash content is primarily affected by the harvesting method (hand-picked vs. automated), whereas fiber color is affected by growing
conditions such as moisture, temperature levels, and insect damage.
If we increase the first digit to four and leave the second digit one, the trash content will increase while the color is constant. The last illustration
shows high trash content as well as discolored cotton. The 44 grade would require more opening and cleaning to remove trash and more
bleaching to remove the discoloration. Yarn producers will generally buy a range of color grades and blend them together during the first steps of
yarn processing in order to give the best product at the lowest cost.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 23

Cotton Properties
Composition
87 to 90% cellulose
5 to 8% water
Remainder is natural impurities
Thermal Properties
Does not melt
Decomposes slowly upon exposure to
dry heat above 300 F
Decomposes rapidly above 475 F
Chemical Properties
Easily damaged by strong acids
Good resistance to alkalis
Loses strength under prolonged
exposure to sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

3.0 5.0

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

3.3 6.0

Extensibility

3 - 10%

Elasticity

75% recovery at
2% extension

Resiliency

low

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

8.5%

Specific Gravity

1.54

This page summarizes physical, thermal, and chemical properties of cotton fibers, as well as shows a photograph of the fiber and describes its
chemical composition. This format will be used for various fibers throughout the remainder of this fiber module, and the information on these
pages will be useful as reference material.
In the photograph of cotton, note the twist, or convolutions, along the length of the fiber. The appearance of cotton is unique among fibers. The
chemical composition of cotton is the polymer cellulose.
In the physical property summary, values are given for tensile properties, moisture regain, and specific gravity. Specific gravity is the density of the
fiber compared to that of water, which is one gram per cubic centimeter. Recall that moisture regain is an indication of the hydrophilicity of the
fiber, or its affinity for water. Cotton is classified as a hydrophilic fiber.
As with most of the natural fibers, cotton does not have a melting point, but decomposes at high temperatures.
With regard to chemical properties, cotton is susceptible to damage by acids. Acidic chemicals are characterized by a pH value between 1 and 7,
with a lower number indicating a stronger acid. A pH of 7 is neutral, while a pH between 7 and 14 indicates alkalinity, with a higher number
indicating stronger alkalinity. Cotton has good resistance to alkaline chemicals, which is fortunate because textile processes such as scouring and
bleaching are generally carried out at a pH of between 10 and 11.
Finally, cotton is susceptible to damage and weakening by exposure to sunlight, as are most fibers. Based on our earlier discussion, can you predict
the reason for this? The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight breaks the chemical bonds in the polymer chain, resulting in shorter chains with lower
molecular weight, thus reducing fiber strength.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 24

The photographs here are useful for illustrating the cross-sectional shape of cotton. The photograph on the left shows untreated cotton fibers,
which are kidney-shaped. The flatter fibers in the picture could be immature. Note also the hollow strip in the center of the fibers this is called
the lumen. The portion of the fiber between the lumen and the outer wall is called the secondary wall, and this is the part of the fiber that is
composed of cellulose. The photograph on the right shows the effect of mercerization on cotton fibers. Mercerization is an optional preparation
step that is generally done to fabric but can also be done to yarn. Mercerization is the immersion of cotton in sodium hydroxide (sometimes called
caustic soda), causing the fibers to swell and the polymer chains to rearrange. The process improves luster, strength, absorbency, and dye uptake.
Note the rounder, more uniform cross-sections in the photograph on the right. In some cases, the lumen disappears. Mercerization will be
discussed in much more detail in another section.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 25

Flax Properties
Composition
Cellulose (from stem of plant)
water
natural impurities
Thermal Properties
Does not melt
Prolonged exposure above 300 F will
cause discoloration
Withstands ironing temperatures up
to 500 F
Chemical Properties
Strong acids cause deterioration
Good resistance to alkalis
Loses strength under prolonged
exposure to sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

5.5 6.5

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

6.6 7.8

Extensibility

2.7 3.3%

Elasticity

65% recovery at 2%
extension

Resiliency

poor

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

12%

Specific Gravity

1.5

The flax fiber is made of cellulose, just like cotton, so those fiber properties affected by chemical composition should be similar for flax and cotton.
The flax fiber is used in making linen fabric. Flax is a bast fiber obtained from the stem of the plant. The fibers are removed from the stalk by a
process called retting, in which the stalks are soaked in water to cause the outer woody portion to rot away. After retting, the flax is rinsed and
dried and combed to remove the fiber. The typical staple length of flax is ten to fifteen inches, but the fibers are generally not as fine as cotton
fibers. Linen fabrics are used in table coverings, draperies, upholstery, and apparel.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 26

Wool Properties
Composition
Protein fiber
Thermal Properties
Becomes weak when heated in
boiling water for prolonged
times
In dry heat above 266 F begins
to decompose and yellow
Chemical Properties
Not easily damaged by acids
Very easily attacked by alkalis
Weakened by sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

1.0 1.7

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

0.8 1.6

Extensibility

20 -40%

Elasticity

99% recovery at 2%
extension

Resiliency

high

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

13 - 16%

Specific Gravity

1.30

Sheeps wool is the most important and plentiful of the animal hair fibers, which are composed of amino acids that are formed into high molecular
weight polypeptide chains. These fibers are called natural protein fibers. In addition to the animal hair fibers, this group includes fibers such as
silk that are secreted by worms or insects. As with the cellulosic fibers, these fibers have high affinity for water and are considered to be
hydrophilic. Compared to cotton, wool fibers are much weaker but much more extensible. Wool fibers can range from coarse to fine, and the finer
fibers are preferred for better quality yarn. The staple length of wool can range from 1.5 to 15 inches.
Fabrics made from wool fibers are known for their resilience and good cover and insulation properties. The fibers are light in weight, as
characterized by a specific gravity lower than that of cotton. Wool fibers are susceptible to damage by alkaline chemicals, so care must be taken
not to damage the fiber during the preparation steps of scouring and bleaching.
Wool and other animal hair fibers are characterized by a scaly appearance, as noted in the scanning electron photomicrograph here. These scales
are responsible for an effect called felting, in which a fabric made of wool shrinks excessively when the fabric is washed in hot water. As the fibers
move past each other during washing, the scales lock together and immobilize the fibers.
Wool fibers are used primarily in apparel but can also be used in carpeting, blankets, upholstery, and industrial textiles.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 27

Silk Properties
Composition
Protein fiber
Thermal Properties
Degrades rapidly at
temperatures above 350 F
Scorches easily at temperatures
above 300 F
Chemical Properties
Good resistance to most acids
except strong mineral acids
Slightly more resistant to alkalis
than wool
Weakened by sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

2.4 5.1

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

2.0 4.3

Extensibility

10 - 25%

Elasticity

92% recovery at 2%
extension

Resiliency

medium

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

11%

Specific Gravity

1.25 1.34

Silk is a protein fiber obtained from the cocoon of various insects, but the commercial silk used in textiles is produced by the silkworm. Silk can be
cultivated or wild. Wild silk is also known as Tussah silk. As discussed earlier, silk is the only natural fiber available in continuous filament form, so
it can be processed into both filament and staple yarns.
Cultivated silk filaments are somewhat triangular in cross-sectional shape. The silk strand reeled from the cocoon consists of two filaments held
together by a gum called sericin. The photograph on this slide shows the two filaments held together. In this form the fiber produces yarns and
fabrics that are very stiff. To soften the fibers, the sericin is dissolved in a process called degumming, in which the yarns or fabrics are boiled in
soapy water.
Because silk is a protein fiber, its properties are similar to those of wool. Silk is a more crystalline fiber than wool, so it is slightly stronger but less
extensible. It also has a lower moisture regain than wool, but it is still considered to be a hydrophilic fiber.
Silk fibers are used primarily for apparel but can be used in draperies and upholstery as well.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 28

Man-Made Fiber Properties

In this section, well look at how man-made fibers are produced by a process called extrusion. All man-made fibers, whether they are from natural
sources or are synthesized from basic chemicals, must be extruded into fiber form. The extrusion occurs when a polymer solution or melt is forced
through a spinneret, which is a metal plate with tiny holes. Each hole produces one filament. Here is a photograph of the bottom view of a
spinneret. The actual size of this spinneret is approximately 76 mm in diameter. It contains 1276 holes, each with a diameter of 0.28 mm.
After weve discussed extrusion, well look at some specific man-made fibers and their properties.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 29

Man-Made Fiber Compositions


Generic Name

Textile Fiber Products Identification Act Definition

Acetate

cellulose acetate; triacetate where not less than 92% of the cellulose is acetylated

Acrylic

at least 85% by weight acrylonitrile units

Anidex

at least 50% by weight of one or more esters of a monohydric alcohol and acrylic acid

Aramid

polyamide in which at least 85% of the amide linkages are directly attached to two aromatic rings

Azlon

regenerated naturally occurring proteins

Elastoester

at least 50% by weight of aliphatic polyether and at least 35% by weight of polyester

Fluoropolymer

at least 95% by weight of a polymer synthesized from aliphatic fluorocarbon monomers

Glass

glass

Melamine

at least 50% by weight of a cross-linked melamine polymer

Metallic

metal, plastic-coated metal, metal-coated plastic, or a core completely covered by metal

Modacrylic

less than 85% but at least 35% by weight acrylonitrile units

Novoloid

at least 85% cross-linked novolac

Nylon

polyamide in which less than 85% of the amide linkages are directly attached to two aromatic rings

Nytril

at least 85% long chain polymer of vinylidene dinitrile where the vinylidene dinitrile content represents not less than every other unit
in the chain

Olefin

at least 85% ethylene, propylene, or other olefin units

PBI

aromatic polymer having reoccurring imidazole groups as an integral part of the polymer chain

PLA

at least 85% by weight of lactic acid ester units derived from naturally occurring sugars

Polyester

at least 85% by weight ester of a substituted aromatic carboxylic acid, including but not restricted to substituted terephthalate units
and para-substituted hydroxy-benzoate units

Rayon

regenerated cellulose in which substituents have replaced not more than 15% of the hydrogens of the hydroxyl groups. Lycocell is
cellulose precipitated from an organic solution in which no substitution of the hydroxyl groups takes place and no chemical
intermediates are formed.

Rubber

natural or synthetic rubber

Saran

at least 80% by weight of vinylidene chloride

Spandex

elastomer of at least 85% of a segmented polyurethane

Sulfar

polysulfide in which at least 85% of the sulfide linkages are attached directly to two aromatic rings

Vinal

at least 50% by weight vinyl alcohol units and at least 85% total vinyl alcohol and other acetal units

Vinyon

at least 85% by weight vinyl chloride units

This page shows how generic fiber classes are defined under the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. These represent all the man-made fiber
classifications recognized by the Federal Trade Commission as of early 2008. You will probably see both familiar and unfamiliar fibers in the list.
You will not see any registered trademarks such as Dacron, Spectra, or Nomex in this list.
The definitions are based on the chemical composition of the fiber, or in other words, the polymer its made of. Recall that chemical composition is
one of the two primary factors that influence the properties of a fiber. Properties that are greatly influenced by chemical composition include
moisture regain, melting temperature, solubility, and resistance to various chemicals.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 30

Extrusion Processes

Wet Spinning
Dry Spinning
Melt Spinning
Gel Spinning
Reaction Spinning
Emulsion or Dispersion Spinning

Now lets talk about the process by which man-made fibers are produced. Here we see a list of various extrusion methods. The type of fiber being
produced generally dictates the method by which it is extruded. Lets also discuss the use of the word spinning. This word can be used to mean
the conversion of staple fibers to yarn as well as to mean the production of man-made filaments by extrusion. For our discussion here, we are
using the second meaning. All the processes listed on this page are extrusion processes. The first three listed (wet, dry, and melt spinning) are
conventional processes that have been used for many years and are still used today to produce the bulk of man-made fibers from either a polymer
solution or a polymer melt. Well cover each of these processes in a separate slide.
The last three processes (gel, reaction, and emulsion spinning) are specialized processes that have come into existence in recent years to
accommodate newer fibers that could not be produced by conventional methods. For example, gel spinning is used to produce very high molecular
weight fibers such as ultra high molecular weight polyethylene. The trade name for this high-strength fiber is Spectra. After passing through the
spinneret, the polymer solution cools to form a gel consisting of the polymer and its solvent. The polymer solidifies upon removal of the solvent by
washing.
In reaction spinning, polymerization occurs during extrusion. Some spandex fibers are produced by this method.
Emulsion or dispersion spinning is used to produce fluorocarbon fibers, which have an extremely high melting point. Particles of the polymer are
dispersed in a carrier, which is generally another polymer material. After extrusion, heat or a solvent is used to remove the carrier.
Other specialized extrusion processes include bicomponent technology, including islands-in-the-sea and segmented pie microfiber production.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 31

Here we see a diagram of the wet spinning process, so-called because the filaments are extruded into a liquid medium called a coagulation or spin
bath. A solution of the polymer is pumped through a spinneret that is immersed in a coagulation bath, where the chemicals in the bath cause the
polymer to solidify and form fibers. The godet wheel controls the speed at which the filaments are pulled from the bath. The filaments are then
washed and are either combined to form filament yarns or cut into staple fibers. The winding process imparts sufficient twist for the filament yarns
to hold together.
Rayon and lyocell fibers are produced by wet spinning. Both are made of cellulose, and the Federal Trade Commission considers lyocell to be a
special type of rayon. Rayon is sometimes referred to as regenerated cellulose, and lyocell is called solvent-spun cellulose. Rayon was the very first
man-made fiber. Production of rayon in the United States began in 1910. It is called regenerated cellulose because the cellulose must be
converted into a chemical derivative in order to go into solution for extrusion. In the coagulation bath, the derivative is converted (or regenerated)
back to cellulose. There are two types of rayon, depending on the nature of the chemical derivative. The most common type of rayon is called
viscose rayon, and the second type is called cuprammonium rayon.
Commercial production of lyocell (trade name: Tencel) began in the early 1990s. During the 1980s the solvent spinning technique for cellulose
was researched and developed. The solvent used is an amine oxide. In this process, the cellulose can be dissolved without being converted to a
chemical derivative, resulting in lyocell fibers being much stronger than rayon fibers.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 32

Wet Spinning Animation

Here we see an animation of the wet spinning process. The polymer feed tank contains the solution of the polymer to be extruded. For production
of viscose rayon, this aqueous solution would actually contain a chemical derivative of cellulose called cellulose xanthate. Making the derivative is
necessary in order to solubilize the cellulose. The polymer should be in liquid form in order to be extruded.
The viscous, honey-colored solution is filtered and pumped from the feed tank to the spinneret, which is immersed in a spin bath, also called a
coagulation bath. As the liquid is pumped through the tiny holes in the spinneret, filaments are formed. The chemicals in the spin bath cause
coagulation, regeneration, and solidification of the filaments into cellulose. For production of rayon, these chemicals would typically include
sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate in water.
Godet wheels pull the solidified filaments from the spin bath. The amount of stretch imparted to the filaments in this step influences the tenacity
and modulus of the fibers.
After regeneration, the filaments must be thoroughly washed to remove impurities before being wound as filament yarns or cut into staple fibers.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 33

The dry spinning process is used to produce acetate, triacetate, and some spandex fibers. In this process a solvent is required to make a solution of
the polymer, which is then pumped through the spinneret. Solid fibers form when the solvent evaporates.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 34

Dry Spinning Animation

As it was for wet spinning, the liquid polymer to be extruded through a spinneret in dry spinning is in the form of a solution. However, the dry
spinning solutions generally use organic solvents rather than the aqueous solutions used in wet spinning.
The solution is filtered and pumped through the spinneret that is contained in a heated chamber that causes evaporation of the solvent, leaving
purified solid filaments. The evaporated solvents are recovered for re-use. The solid filaments are generally stretched or drawn while still hot to
impart orientation and fineness to the fibers before they are wound.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 35

Polymers whose melting temperature is easily controllable and does not degrade the material can be produced by the melt spinning process.
These would include nylon, polyester, and olefin fibers. More recently, PLA fibers have been added to this list. No solvent is required for this
process; the pure polymer is melted from chips or pellets as seen in the lower left of the screen. These chips are made of the same polymer as that
found in two-liter plastic soft drink bottles. Your recycled drink bottles can be melted and extruded into polyester fiber! It takes approximately ten
two-liter bottles to make one pound of recycled polyester fiber.
The molten polymer is pumped through the spinneret, and the solid fiber forms upon cooling. The cross-sectional shape of the fiber can be
determined by the shape of the hole in the spinneret.
The internal structural factors such as crystallinity and orientation that we discussed earlier are greatly influenced by the process controls in melt
spinning. They are affected by viscosity and purity of the polymer melt, temperature and pressure of the melt, rate of cooling of the extruded
fibers, and the rate of uptake and drawing of the solid fiber, among others. The drawing step, which increases orientation, can be a part of the
extrusion process, or it can be a separate step. Fully drawn filaments can then be cut into staple fibers or used as untextured filament yarns. POY,
or partially oriented yarns, are yarns that are only partially drawn. These generally will be textured in a separate step for use as textured filament
yarns.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 36

Melt Spinning Animation

No solvents are necessary for melt spinning; chips or pellets of the pure polymer are heated and melted into a viscous liquid. In this illustration,
the liquid is filtered and channeled to the spinneret by a threaded shaft called a screw extruder. The viscous polymer melt is forced through the
spinneret holes, and the resulting filaments solidify in a cooling chamber, followed by stretching and take-up. No solvents are necessary for melt
spinning; chips or pellets of the pure polymer are heated and melted into a viscous liquid. In this illustration, the liquid is filtered and channeled to
the spinneret by a threaded shaft called a screw extruder. The viscous polymer melt is forced through the spinneret holes, and the resulting
filaments solidify in a cooling chamber, followed by stretching and take-up.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 37

Melt Spinning Video

This is a video of a melt spinning machine. Chips or pellets of pure polymer are delivered to the extruder from a hopper, then they are heated and
melted into a viscous liquid. In this video the liquid is filtered and channeled to the spinneret by a threaded shaft called a screw extruder. The
viscous polymer melt is forced through the spinneret holes , and the resulting filaments solidify in a cooling chamber ,followed by the application of
a spin finish and subsequent stretching and take up. These machines are monitored and controlled by computers.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 38

Rayon Properties
Composition
Regenerated Cellulose
Thermal Properties
Loses strength above 300 F
Decomposes above 350 F
Chemical Properties
Easily damaged by strong
acids
Good resistance to most
alkalis; loses strength in
strong alkalis
Lengthy exposure to sunlight
weakens the fabric
Greater affinity for dyes than
cotton

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

regular rayon: 2.4 3.0; high wet


modulus: 4.0 5.0

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

regular rayon: 1.1 1.5; high wet


modulus: 2.2 3.0

Extensibility

15 24%

Elasticity

82% recovery at 2% extension


(95% for HWM)

Resiliency

low

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

11 16%

Specific Gravity

1.51

As discussed earlier, rayon fiber is made of regenerated cellulose, so those fiber properties affected by chemical composition, such as hydrophilicity,
should be similar for rayon and cotton. Without looking at the properties table, would you predict the moisture regain of rayon to be higher, lower,
or about the same as that of cotton and why? The correct response would be higher. Even though the two fibers are made of the same polymer,
which is the primary influence on their affinity for water, recall that rayon fibers have much lower crystallinity than cotton. These amorphous
regions allow for more penetration by water into the rayon fibers internal structure. The lower crystallinity level in rayon also makes it a very
weak fiber, although certain types of rayon, known as high-wet-modulus rayons, are stronger than traditional rayon due to the increased molecular
weight or crystallinity. The terms Polynosic and Modal refer to high-wet-modulus rayon.
Bamboo fibers, in most cases, are actually regenerated cellulose made from the wood pulp of bamboo, so they would be classified as a type of
rayon fiber.
Rayon is a very absorbent fiber whose primary use is in medical textiles, but it is also used in apparel and household textiles.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 39

Lyocell Properties
Composition
Solvent-spun Cellulose
Thermal Properties
Loses strength above 300 F
Begins to decompose on
extended exposure to 350 F
and above
Chemical Properties
Easily damaged by strong acids
Strong alkalis cause swelling
and reduce strength
Can be mercerized
Loses strength under prolonged
exposure to ultraviolet rays of
sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

4.8 5.0

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

3.8 4.2

Extensibility

14 - 16%

Resiliency

low

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

11.5%

Specific Gravity

1.56

Better known by its trade name, Tencel, lyocell is made of solvent-spun cellulose, so it has all the desirable comfort properties of cotton and rayon,
while at the same time having strength comparable to polyester. Whereas rayon is made from wood pulp from pine and spruce trees, the pulp for
the production of lyocell generally comes from hardwood trees like oak and birch.
The major use for lyocell is for apparel, particularly high-end designer goods, but because of its strength and absorbency, it can also be used in
industrial textiles and in bandages and other medical textiles.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 40

Acetate Properties
Composition
Acetate ester of cellulose
Thermal Properties
Acetate softens and begins to
melt at 347 F
Triacetate softens and begins to
melt at 455 F
Chemical Properties
Poor resistance to concentrated
acids
Poor resistance to concentrated
alkalis
Acetate susceptible to damage
by long exposure to sunlight;
triacetate has better resistance

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

acetate: 1.2 1.4;


triacetate: 1.1 1.4

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

acetate: 0.9 1.0;


triacetate: 0.8 1.0

Extensibility

25 35%

Elasticity

48 - 75% recovery at 4%
extension (80% for triacetate)

Resiliency

acetate: low; triacetate: good

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

acetate: 6.5%;
triacetate: 3.2 3.5%

Specific Gravity

1.32

As with rayon and lyocell, acetate fibers are derived from cellulose, but the cellulose is chemically modified by treatment with acetic acid to form
cellulose acetate. This polymer is not as hydrophilic in nature as cellulose because hydroxyl groups along the polymer chain have been replaced by
acetate groups. When more than 92% of the hydroxyl groups have been converted to acetate groups, the fiber is called triacetate.
A major use of acetate fibers is in cigarette filters. The fiber is also used to make garment linings and lingerie. Acetate fibers are soluble in acetone,
so fingernail polish remover will easily dissolve garments containing acetate!

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 41

Acrylic Properties
Composition
Polyacrylonitrile and small
amounts of other monomers
Thermal Properties
Does not melt
Sticks at 450 F
Chemical Properties
Resistance to most acids; strong
concentrated acids can cause
strength loss
Damaged by concentrated alkalis
Excellent resistance to ultraviolet
light

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

2.0 2.7

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

1.6 2.2

Extensibility

34 - 50%

Elasticity

99% recovery at 2%
extension

Resiliency

good

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

1.0 1.5%

Specific Gravity

1.17

The polymer in acrylic fibers is poly(acrylonitrile). A homopolymer of 100% poly(acrylonitrile), however, could not be dyed, so most acrylic fibers
are copolymers, with a second monomer, such as vinyl acetate, introduced to provide dyeability. Acrylic fibers decompose before melting, so they
must be extruded by the wet or dry spinning processes.
The properties of acrylic fiber are similar to many of the properties of wool. The fiber is lightweight and can be made into bulky yarns with good
cover and warmth, so it is used in such items as sweaters, socks, and blankets.
Acrylic fibers can be modified in many ways to affect their dyeability, flame resistance, bulk and comfort properties, and anti-microbial properties.
The term modacrylic describes a fiber composed of between 35% and 85% acrylonitrile, and these fibers are known for their flame-resistance
properties.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 42

Nylon Properties
Composition
Nylon 6,6:
polyhexamethylene adipamide
Nylon 6:
polycaprolactam
Thermal Properties
Nylon 6,6 softens at 445 F and
melts at 480-500 F
Nylon 6 melts at 419 430 F
Physical Properties
Chemical Properties
Dissolves in mineral and formic
acids
Good resistance to alkalis
Loses strength on prolonged
exposure to sunlight

Strength Dry (grams/denier)

3.5 9.0

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

3.2 8.0

Extensibility

16 - 50%

Elasticity

100% recovery at
4% extension

Resiliency

good

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

2.8 5.0%

Specific Gravity

1.14

Nylon was the first truly synthetic fiber and was first produced in the United States in 1938. It was first used in toothbrush bristles but quickly
became popular for use in womens hosiery, which were known as nylons. Soon after this popularity boost, World War II necessitated that the
production of nylon be diverted to tents and parachutes for the military, so nylon hosiery was unavailable until the end of the war.
Nylon is a polyamide fiber, which means that it is formed from the reaction of an amine group with an acid group to form an amide chemical group.
Nylon fibers are named based on the number of carbon atoms in the diamine and diacid starting chemicals. For example, Nylon 6,6 is a polymer
formed from the reaction of hexamethylene diamine with adipic acid. Each of these starting compounds contains 6 carbon atoms. Nylon 6
polymer is formed from a cyclic compound called caprolactam (an amino acid), which contains six carbons. The cyclic compound opens up and
joins with itself from end-to-end to form the nylon 6 polymer. Other nylons on the market include nylon 6,10; nylon 6,12; and nylon 11; but nylon
6 and nylon 6,6 are by far the most commonly-used nylon fibers. Physical properties vary with the type of nylon. For example, the melting point of
nylon 6 is lower than that of nylon 6,6. Aramid fibers, such as Kevlar and Nomex, are a separate class of polyamides that contain aromatic
structures in their polymer chains.
Nylon is used for all kinds of apparel, including hosiery, lingerie, bathing suits, sportswear, and outerwear. It is also found in floor coverings, tire
cords, and various industrial uses.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 43

Polyester Properties
Composition
Polyethylene terephthalate:
(Combination of terephthalic
acid or dimethyl terephthalate
and ethylene glycol)
Thermal Properties
Softens or sticks at 440 - 465 F
Melts at 478 495 F
Chemical Properties
Good resistance to most acids
Good resistance to most alkalis
Good resistance to sunlight

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

2.8 6.3

Strength Wet (grams/denier)

2.8 6.3

Extensibility

19 - 50%

Elasticity

97 - 100% recovery
at 2% extension

Resiliency

excellent

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

0.4%

Specific Gravity

1.38

The first polyester fibers were produced in 1951. Polyester is now used more than any other synthetic fiber and is very close to cotton in the
amount of fiber produced per year. It is an extremely versatile fiber used in all kinds of apparel and industrial products. It is used as fiberfill in such
items as quilts, pillows, comforters, and furniture. It is a strong yet flexible fiber with very low moisture regain, so fabrics made of polyester are
quick-drying. The fiber can also be set by high temperature approximately 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to impart a memory, resulting in fabrics
with good wrinkle resistance and dimensional stability.
Because of its hydrophobic nature, polyester can be uncomfortable when worn under conditions that cause the wearer to perspire. Hydrophobic
fibers will not absorb perspiration and can trap the moisture against the skin. The comfort of a hydrophobic fiber such as polyester can be
improved by enhancing the wickability of the fiber, that is, its ability to transport moisture away from the skins surface. Wickability can be
improved by increasing the surface area of the fiber and providing channels for transporting the moisture to the outer surfaces of the garment,
where it can evaporate. This is the mechanism used by Coolmax polyester, which was developed by DuPont. Note the cross-sectional shape in
the lower right hand corner of the slide. The hydrophobic nature of polyester can also make it very difficult to remove oily stains from a polyester
fabric. Polyester is sometimes treated with a soil release finish to make the fiber surfaces more hydrophilic so that they have less affinity for oil.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 44

Spandex Properties
Composition
Copolymer of segmented
polyurethane with polyester,
polyether, polycarbonate, or
others
Thermal Properties
Short exposure times between
200 and 300 F do not damage
the fiber
Melts at 446 F
Chemical Properties
Good resistance to mild acids
and alkalis
Sensitive to chlorine; yellowed
by hypochlorite bleach
Prolonged exposure to sunlight
causes strength loss

Physical Properties
Strength Dry (grams/denier)

0.7 1.0

Extensibility

400 800 %

Elasticity

99% recovery at
50% extension

Resiliency

very high

Moisture Regain @ 70 F, 65% rh

1.3%

Specific Gravity

1.2

The generic fiber class spandex is a derivative of the word expand, which describes what spandex fiber does very well! Note in the physical
properties table that spandex can extend from 400% to 800% of its original length before breaking.
Spandex is a block copolymer composed of hard and soft segments. The soft segments can extend and then snap back to their original
configuration, which gives the polymer its elasticity. The hard, rigid segments are a polyurethane polymer, and the soft segments are either a
polyether or a polyester.
Spandex filaments can be produced in deniers from 20 up to 5400, so they are much larger than typical apparel fibers. The photographs show a
bundle of coalesced spandex filaments that are fused together. This is typical of spandex. Spandex is always blended with other fibers in a fabric.
The percentage of spandex can be anywhere from 2% for apparel up to 40% for medical garments. The elasticity of the fabric increases with the
amount of spandex. Spandex can be incorporated as a bare filament, which is knitted or woven alongside the other yarns in the fabric, or as a corespun yarn, in which the spandex filaments are the core of the yarn with the other fiber components spun around the outside.
Spandex fibers are particularly sensitive to damage by chlorine bleach, so garments containing spandex should not be bleached. Spandex is,
however, fairly resistant to the concentration of chlorine typically in swimming pools.
Spandex fibers are used in a variety of applications, including swimwear, sportswear, foundation garments and underwear, hosiery, medical
stockings, bandages, and athletic shoes.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 45

Summary of Conventional Textile Fiber Properties


Specific
Gravity

Tenacity-dry
(g/d)

Tenacity-wet
(g/d)

Moisture
Regain (%)

Elongation (%)

Softening/
Melting Point

Acetate

1.32

1.2 1.4

0.9 1.0

6.5

25 35

(s) 400 445


(m) 500

Acrylic

1.17

2.0 2.7

1.6 2.2

1.0 1.5

34 50

(s) 450

Cotton

1.54

3.0 5.0

3.3 6.0

8.5

3 10

None

2.50 2.55

9.6 19.9

6.7 19.9

3.1 5.3

(s) 1350 1560

Lyocell

1.56

4.8 5.0

3.8 4.2

11.5

14 16

Does not melt


Decomposes 350 400

Nylon 6,6

1.14

3.5 9.0

3.2 8.0

2.8 5.0

16 50

(s) 445
(m) 480 500

Polyester

1.38

2.8 6.3

2.8 6.3

0.4

19 50

(s) 440 465


(m) 478 495

Rayon, Regular

1.51

2.4 3.0

1.1 1.5

11 16

15 24

Does not melt


Decomposes 350 400

Rayon, HWM

1.51

4.0 5.0

2.2 3.0

11 16

15 - 24

Does not melt


Decomposes 350 400

1.25 1.34

2.4 5.1

2.0 4.3

11

10 25

Does not melt


Decomposes 350 400

Spandex

1.2

0.7 1.0

1.3

400 800

(m) 446

Wool

1.30

1.0 1.7

0.8 1.6

13 16

20 40

Does not melt


Decomposes 310 350

(F)

Glass

Silk

This table summarizes various physical properties for commonly-used fibers and is suitable as a reference.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 46

Thermal Properties of Conventional Fibers


Melting Point
(F)

Melting
Point
(C)

Cotton

Non-melting

Flax

Non-melting

Silk
Wool

Softening Sticking
Point
(F)

Softening Sticking
Point
(C)

Safe Ironing
(F)

Safe Ironing
(C)

Non-melting

425

218

Non-melting

450

232

Non-melting

Non-melting

300

149

Non-melting

Non-melting

300

149

Acetate

446

230

364

184

350

177

Triacetate

575

302

482

250

464

240

400 490

204 254

300 350

149 176

Natural Fibers

Man-made Fibers

Acrylic
Aramid

Non-melting

Glass

1400 3033

Modacrylic

410

210

300

149

200 250

93 121

Nylon 6

414

212

340

171

300

149

Nylon 6,6

482

250

445

229

350

177

Olefin

338

170

260

127

150

66

Polyester

480

249

460

238

325

163

Rayon

Non-melting

375

191

Saran

350

177

300

149

Do not iron

Do not iron

Spandex

446

230

347

175

300

149

Vinyon

285

140

200

93

Do not iron

Do not iron

This table summarizes various thermal properties for commonly-used fibers and is also suitable for reference.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 47

Properties Desired for Textile Fibers


Apparel and Domestic Requirements
Tenacity: 3 - 5 grams/denier
Elongation at break: 10 35%
Recovery from elongation: 100% at strains up to 5%
Modulus of elasticity: 30 60 grams/denier
Moisture absorbency: 2 5%
Zero strength temperature (excessive creep and softening point): above 215 C
High abrasion resistance (varies with type fabric structure)
Dyeable
Low flammability
Insoluble with low swelling in water, in moderately strong acids and bases, and in conventional organic
solvents from room temperature to 100 C
Ease of care
Industrial Requirements
Tenacity: 7 8 grams/denier
Elongation at break: 8 15%
Modulus of elasticity: > 80 grams/denier conditioned; > 50 g/d wet
Zero strength temperature: 250 C or above

This slide gives values for various fiber properties that we would expect to see for apparel and domestic uses compared to industrial uses. Fibers
for industrial uses are expected to be stronger and show higher modulus values than apparel fibers. The temperature requirements for industrial
fibers are generally higher as well.

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.

Fibers
Slide 48

Fiber Blends

To facilitate processing
To improve properties
Abrasion resistance
Strength
Absorbency
Bulk and warmth
Hand
Dimensional stability
Resistance to wrinkling
To produce multi-color fabrics
To reduce costs

Lastly, we see that various fibers can be blended to produce yarns and fabrics with improved properties that take advantage of the desirable
properties of both fiber components while many times lowering the cost. In some cases, more than two fiber types can be blended. The most
uniform way to blend fibers is in what is referred to as an intimate blend. In this type of blend, two or more different kinds of staple fibers are
blended before being spun into a yarn. Cotton and polyester are often blended in this manner. Another way to blend would be to have a warp
yarn of one fiber type and a filling yarn of a second fiber type woven into a fabric.
Think about a fabric made from a cotton/polyester blend. Can you name some desirable properties of cotton? Now think of some undesirable
properties of cotton. Desirable properties would be comfort due to its hydrophilic nature, hand, and softness. Going hand in hand with its
hydrophilic nature and high absorbency, however, would also be a tendency to wrinkle and shrink after laundering. Thus, we can blend polyester
into the fabric for stabilization. When polyester is heat-set, it has much lower tendency to wrinkle or shrink. Thus, a blend of cotton and polyester
gives us the comfort and softness of cotton combined with the stability of polyester. Now if we could just reduce its pilling tendency!

Copyright 2008-2011 North Carolina State University. All rights reserved.