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fiber,threadlike strand, usually pliable and capable of being spun into a yarn. Many different fibers are known to be usable; some 40 of these are of commercial importance, and others are of local or specialized use. Fibers may be classified as either natural or synthetic. The natural fibers may be further classed according to origin as animal, vegetable, or inorganic fibers.
Animal fibers are composed chiefly of proteins; they include silksilk,
fine, horny, translucent, yellowish fiber produced by the silkworm in making its cocoon and covered with sericin, a protein. Many varieties of silk-spinning worms and insects are known, but the silkworm of commerce is the larva of the Bombyx mori,
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fiber made from the fleece of the domestic sheep. Composition and Characteristics
Wool consists of the cortex, overlapping scales (sharper and more protruding than those of hair) that may expand at their free edges causing fibers to intermesh; elasticum, the
..... Click the link for more information. , and hair of the goat (known as mohairmohair,
hair of the Angora goat or a large group of fabrics made from it, either wholly or in combination with wool, silk, or cotton. The Angora goat, native of Asia Minor for 2,000 years, is bred in other lands, e.g., the SW United States and South Africa.
..... Click the link for more information. ), llama and alpacaalpaca
, partially domesticated South American mammal, Lama pacos, of the camel family. Genetic studies show that it is a descendant of the vicuña. Although the flesh is sometimes used for food, the animal is bred chiefly for its long, lustrous wool, which varies
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, wild South American hoofed mammal, Vicugna vicugna, the smallest member of the camel family. It is 30 in. (75 cm) high at the shoulder, with a long, slender neck and pale, fawn coloring.
..... Click the link for more information. , camel, horse, rabbit, beaver, hog, badger, sablesable,
species of marten, Martes zibellina, found in Siberia, N European Russia, and N Finland. This carnivorous mammal is highly valued for its thick, soft fur, which is dark brown or black, sometimes with white underparts and sometimes flecked with silver.
..... Click the link for more information. , and other animals. Vegetable fibers are composed chiefly of cellulose and may be classed as short fibers, e.g., cottoncotton,
most important of the vegetable fibers, and the plant from which the fiber is harvested. The Cotton Plant
The cotton plant belongs to the genus Gossypium of the family Malvaceae (mallow family).
..... Click the link for more information. and kapokkapok
, name for a tropical tree of the family Bombacaceae (bombax family) and for the fiber (floss) obtained from the seeds in the ripened pods. The floss has been important in commerce since the 1890s; the chief source is Ceiba pentandra,
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common name for members of the Linaceae, a family of annual herbs, especially members of the genus Linum, and for the fiber obtained from such plants. The flax of commerce (several varieties of L.
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common name for a tall annual herb (Cannabis sativa) of the family Cannabinaceae, native to Asia but now widespread because of its formerly large-scale cultivation for the bast fiber (also called hemp) and for the drugs it yields.
..... Click the link for more information. , Manila hempManila hemp,
the most important of the cordage fibers. It is obtained chiefly from the Manila hemp plant (Musa textilis) of the family Musaceae (banana family). It is grown mainly in its native Philippine Islands, where it has been cultivated since the 16th cent.
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[from Sisal, former chief port of Yucatan], important cordage fiber obtained from the leaves of the sisal hemp plant, an extensively cultivated tropical agave (family Agavaceae or Liliaceae).
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fibrous grayish-green epiphyte (Tillandsia usneoides) that hangs on trees of tropical America and the Southern states, also called Florida, southern, or long moss. It is not a true moss but a member of the pineapple family, and has inconspicuous flowers.
..... Click the link for more information. . The chief natural inorganic fiber is asbestosasbestos,
common name for any of a variety of silicate minerals within the amphibole and serpentine groups that are fibrous in structure and more or less resistant to acid and fire. Chrysotile asbestos, a form of serpentine, is the chief commercial asbestos.
..... Click the link for more information. . Fibers are also derived from other inorganic substances that can be drawn into threads, e.g., metals (especially gold and silver). Artificial fibers can be produced either by the synthesis of polymers (nylonnylon,
synthetic thermoplastic material characterized by strength, elasticity, resistance to abrasion and chemicals, low moisture absorbency, and capacity to be permanently set by heat. After 10 years of research E. I.
..... Click the link for more information. ) or by the alteration of natural fibers (rayonrayon,
synthetic fibers made from cellulose or textiles woven from such fibers; more rayon is manufactured than any other synthetic fiber. The name was adopted (1924), in preference to "artificial silk," by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and various commercial associations.
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Fibers are classified according to use as textile, cordage, brush, felt, filling, and plaiting fibers. The largest volume is used for textiles and cordage. The chief textile fibers used for clothing and domestic goods are cotton, wool, rayon, nylon, flax, and silk. Coarse-textured fibers (principally jute) are used for burlap, floor covering, sacks, and bagging materials. Cordage fibers include most of the long vegetable fibers and cotton. Brush fibers include istle, sisal, broomcorn, palmyra, and animal hairs. The chief felt fibers are rabbit and beaver hair. Filling fibers include horsehair, wool flock, kapok, cotton, and Spanish moss. Plaiting fibers are used for braided articles (e.g., hats, mats, and baskets) and include Manila hemp, sisal, rushes, and grasses.
Flax, hemp, and wool have been used extensively from remote times; cotton, however, became the leading commercial fiber c.1800. The demand for fibers was greatly increased by the invention of spinning and weaving machinery during the Industrial Revolution. The artificial fibers (see synthetic textile fiberssynthetic textile fibers
have revolutionized the textile industry. Such artificial fibers are usually long-chain polymers, produced industrially by the condensation of many small units.
..... Click the link for more information. ) have rapidly grown in diversity and extent of use since the development of rayon in 1884.