Types of Fibre
Textiles F.R. Limited
Flame Retardancy Finishers & Consultants
Textile Fibres
Introduction: This is a short description of some technical aspects of textile fibres. It serves only to support other parts of our web site such as Fibres & Flammability or Fire Propagation where reference is made to fibre structure and composition. It is intended to simply show the diversity of fibres and the implications this has within the context of flame retardancy.
Fibre Structure: Textile fibres are made up of molecules. The molecules constituting a fibre are very long and are referred to as polymers. The polymers themselves are constructed from small units termed monomers. Many monomers join together to form the polymer. Many polymer molecules compose each fibre. For example, cotton is composed of cellulose (polymer) which is made up of many cellobiose (monomer) molecules.

Estimates of the length of polymers (i.e. the number of repeating units constituting a single polymer molecule) can be obtained by determining the degree of polymerisation (n).

n = average molecular weight of polymer
molecular weight of the repeating unit in the polymer

So for cotton, the n is typically 5000, for polyester n is in the order of 120. The diversity of textile fibres originates in the type of monomer units from which the polymers are constructed. Variations within the number and arrangement of the many polymer chains within each fibre can impart subtle differences to the finished textile.

Diversity of Structure: The diversity of component structure and composition between fibre types is one of many factors contributing to differences in the ignitability of textiles. Subtle variations within the construction of two qualities of the same fibre can lead to differences in their respective flammability properties. This is often exacerbated by the influence of textile auxiliaries that are applied to most fibres during manufacture (this would include items such as dye materials and fabric softeners) all of which contribute to the ignition properties of the finished fabrics. A brief description of the composition of the major textile fibres is given on the next few pages. Alternatively, each of the fibres described can be accessed directly from the left side bar list under 'Types of Fibre'.
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