are classified into three classes, those made from natural polymers, those made
from synthetic polymers and those made from inorganic materials.
The most common
natural polymer fibre is viscose, which is made from the polymer cellulose
obtained mostly from farmed trees. Other cellulose-based fibres are Lyocell,
Modal, Acetate and Triacetate. Less common natural polymer fibres are made
from rubber, alginic acid and regenerated protein.
There are very
many synthetic fibres i.e. organic fibres based on petrochemicals. The most
common are polyester, polyamide (often called nylon), acrylic and modacrylic,
polypropylene, the segmented polyurethanes which are elastic fibres known as elastanes
(or spandex in the USA), and speciality high-tenacity fibres such as the
high performance aramids and UHMwPE (Ultra High Molecular weight PolyEthylene).
Fibres from Inorganic Materials
man-made fibres are fibres made from materials such as glass, metal, carbon or
ceramic. These fibres are very often used to reinforce plastics to form
There are several
fibres made from the naturally occurring polymer cellulose, which is present in
all plants. Mostly cellulose from wood is used to produce the fibres but
sometimes cellulose from short cotton fibres, called linters, is the source. By
far the most common cellulosic fibre is viscose fibre.
Viscose is defined by BISFA as being "a cellulose
fibre obtained by the viscose process". It is known as rayon fibre in
the USA. Although several cellulosic fibres had been made experimentally during
the 19th century, it was not until 1905 that what has become the most popular
cellulosic fibre, viscose, was produced.
Originally published in
New Cloth Market, December 2011