Fibres may be defined as any hair-like raw material directly obtainable from an animal, vegetable, or mineral source and convertible into nonwoven fabrics such as felt or paper or, after spinning into yarns, into woven cloth.
Natural fibres can be classified according to their origin.
1. The vegetable, or cellulose-base, class includes such important fibres as cotton, flax, and jute.
2. The animal, or protein-base, fibres include wool, mohair, and silk.
3. Regenerated and synthetic fibres include Nylon, Terylene, Orlon, Viscose, Alginate fibres, etc.
4. An important fibre in the mineral class is asbestos.
The vegetable fibres can be divided into smaller groups, based on their origin within the plant. Cotton, kapok, and coir are examples of fibres originating as hairs borne on the seeds or inner walls of the fruit, where each fibre consists of a single, long, narrow cell.
Flax, hemp, jute, and ramie are bast fibres, occurring in the inner bast tissue of certain plant stems and made up of overlapping cells.
Abaca, henequen, and sisal are fibres occurring as part of the fibrovascular system of the leaves. Chemically, all vegetable fibres consist mainly of cellulose, although they also contain varying amounts of such substances as hemicellulose, lignin, pectins, and waxes that must be removed or reduced by processing.
The animal fibres consist exclusively of proteins and, with the exception of silk, constitute the fur or hair that serves as the protective epidermal covering of animals. Silk filaments are extruded by the larvae of moths and are used to spin their cocoons.
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