Corn fibres have emerged as an eco-friendly substitute for synthetic fabrics and are being used for making not just clothes, but also in geotextiles and home textiles. Renuka Tejaswini explains the processes involved in extracting corn fibres from corn starch and its many benefits and applications in the textile industry.


For many years, enzymes like amylase from malt extracts have been used to degrade starch-based sizes for cheap and effective desizing, which are also economical.


A low-cost and effective biotechnology solution in textile processing has been found and new fabrics have been discovered. To produce those fabrics, yarn and fibre manufacturing are necessary. Experiments are done to extract from various bio-based products which are derived from natural renewable resources (i.e., eco- friendly), which are less dependent on petroleum-based ingredients. The product which acts as an alternative to the synthetic is derived from corn.


By fermenting corn starch, which generates lactic acid (i.e., polymer) corn fibres originate. Just corn fibres are made using fermentation of plant sugar. It is not naturally available since it involves chemical transformation. It is renewable because it does not come from a fossil product.


Corn fibre description:

Corn fibre is a manmade fibre which has all the advantages of synthetic materials and various properties of natural products such as cotton and wool.


The manufacturing of polymer in corn fibre involves process of fermentation, distillation and polymerisation of simple plant sugar (maize dextrose) on an industrial scale. First, the sugars are fermented. After fermentation, products are transformed into a high performance polymer called polylactide, which can be spun or processed into corn fibre.


The production and use of corn fibre create less pollution and fewer greenhouse gases.


Fig: Eco Corn Fibre Small Ball


Conversion of starch:

Corn starch contains about 27 per cent amylase. Starch cannot be metabolised directly by yeast. It should be first broken down into simple six carbon sugars prior to fermentation. For this conversion, the pH of the mash is adjusted to 6.0, followed by the alpha-amylase.


The mash is heated above 100c using a jet cooker. The corn mash is kept at the elevated temperature for several minutes by pumping it through a holding tube equipped with a back pressure valve. The mash flows from the holding tube into a flash tank and the temperature is allowed to fall to 80-90c. Now alpha amylase is added and the mash is liquefied for at least 30 minutes. Then, the mash is cooled and glucoamylase enzyme is added. It converts starch into glucose.