Bamboo, the wonder plant in nature, has many uses which include but not limited to erosion control, watershed protection, soil remediation, environmental greening and medicinal application. Bamboo is an incredibly sustainable resource, since it's fast-growing and resilient. Bamboo is actually not a wood, it's a grass. Unlike a tree, which can take decades to grow to maturity, bamboo is ready to harvest within 4 to 5 years.
Bamboo is a high-yield renewable natural resource: ply bamboo is now being used for wall paneling, floor tiles; bamboo pulp for paper making, briquettes for fuel, raw material for housing construction, and rebar for reinforced concrete beams. Bamboo is a mystical plant as a symbol of strength, flexibility, tenacity, endurance, luck and compromise. Throughout Asia, bamboo has been an integral part to religions ceremonies, art, music and daily life for centuries. Among the earliest historical records, in 2nd century B.C., it was written on green bamboo strips strung together in a bundle with silk thread. Instruments made of bamboo create unique resonance.
Bamboo shoots provide nutrition for million of people worldwide. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of pulverized bamboo bark prevents bacterial growth and its used a natural food preservative. Taiwan alone consumes 80,000 tons of bamboo shoots annually constituting at $50 million industry.
Many Asian countries overall development policy is to make limited use of natural resources, concentrating on the renewable ones. This policy recognizes the importance of rural activities, such as agriculture, forestry and handicrafts production. Bamboo is involved in all of these. The demand for bamboo is bound to increase over time, particularly for use as fodder and other multipurpose uses. There is ample scope for greater bamboo production, especially in the higher areas where communities are widely dispersed and agriculture is less profitable.
Bamboo fiber and starchy pulp are made from bamboo that grows widely throughout Asian countries. Starchy pulp is a refined product of bamboo stems and leaves through a process of hydrolysis-alkalization and multi-phase bleaching. Chemical fiber factories then process it into bamboo fiber.
There are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a textile substrate: mechanically and chemically.
Mechanical process: The woody parts of the bamboo plant are crushed and then natural enzymes are used to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. This is treated as an eco-friendly manufacturing process. Bamboo fiber product made from this process is sometimes called bamboo linen. Very little bamboo linen is manufactured for clothing because it is more labor intensive and costly.
Chemical process: Chemically manufactured bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber similar to rayon or modal. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon because of the many similarities in the way it is chemically manufactured and similarities in its feel and hand.
Bamboo fiber is chemically manufactured by cooking the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide in a process also known as hydrolysis alkalization combined with multi-phase bleaching. This is basically the same process used to make rayon from wood or cotton waste by products. The general process for producing regenerated bamboo fiber using hydrolysis alkalization with multi-phase bleaching technology is furnished below:
Preparation : Bamboo leaves and the soft, inner pith from the hard bamboo trunk are extracted and crushed;
Steeping : The crushed bamboo cellulose is soaked in a solution of 15% to 20% sodium hydroxide at a temperature between 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C for one to three hours to form alkali cellulose.
Pressing: The bamboo alkali cellulose is then squeezed mechanically to remove excess sodium hydroxide solution.
Shreeding: The alkali cellulose is mechanically shredded to increase surface area and make the cellulose easier to process.