Different Types of Textile Protein Fibers with Properties and Uses
Nikhil Yogesh Upadhye
Department of Textiles (Textile Chemistry)
DKTE’S Textile and Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, India
Intern at Textile Learner
Protein fibers are fibers with a protein origin. They are made from a natural animal source by condensation of (alpha)-amino acids, which results in repeating polyamide units with many substituents on a (alpha)-carbon atom. The overall properties and characteristics of the resultant fibers are influenced by the sequence and type of amino acids that bond together on individual protein chains. Textile fibers such as wool, flax, cotton, and silk were widely used. Textile fibers are distinguished by their pliability, fineness, and length in relation to the maximum transverse dimension. Protein fibers are medium-strength, resiliency, and elasticity fibers. They are very good at absorbing moisture and transporting it. They don’t accumulate static electricity. While they are acid resistant, they are vulnerable to bases and oxidizing agents. Due to oxidative attack, they tend to yellow in the sun.
Different Types / List of Textile Protein Fibers:
- Wool fiber
- Silk fiber
- Vicuna fiber
- Casein fiber
- Zein fiber
- Alpaca fiber
- Angora fiber
- Camel fiber
- Mohair fiber
- Azlon fiber
- Llama fiber
- Qiviut fiber
- Cashmere fiber
Above all types of protein fibers are described below:
1. Wool Fiber
Wool is oldest and important animal fiber. It is one of the most important protein fibers. Wool is the fiber mostly used for outerwear in cold countries old refers to fiber which comes from domestic sheep other hair fibers are mohair, cashmere hair that products of camel or horse hair but all hair fibers can’t be used for textile purposes.
Due to following reasons:
- All hair fibers do not have the required degree of spin ability.
- All other fibers lake in textile properties like softness, strength, fineness.
- The chemical structure of other hair fibers is not suitable to be used in textile field.
Grading of wool:
|Fine wool||3.2-10 cm||10-30 µm|
|Medium wool||5-20 cm||20-40 µm|
|Long wool||12.5-35.5 cm||35-50 µm|
|Cross breed||7.5-15.5 cm||20-40 µm|
|Mixed||Length varies according to source||20-100 µm|
Chemical structure of wool fiber:
Chemical composition of wool:
Composition of row wool will vary greatly because many complicated factors to consider.
The important constituent is known as keratin.
|Sand and Dust||4-30%|
Physical properties of wool:
- Length: The length of wool fiber varies is from 3.6 cm to 35 cm the length varies not only on different breeds but also same animal.
- Fineness: The fineness of wool fiber shows the same type of behavior like that of variation in the length the finest ranges from 10 micron to 70 micron cross section the shape of fiber cross section vice versa from cuticle to helical the crimp of wool fiber contribute to spinning quality is varies from 0 to 30 crimp/inch.
- Strength: Distant of wool fiber is poor compared to the other textile fibers due to low orientation in fiber structure the tensile strength varies accordingly and it has range of 1600 to 2150 kg/ cm2.
- Elasticity: The elasticity and elongation of wool are those most important physical properties under normal taste consideration wool is having 90% elasticity.
- Moisture content: Moisture content of wool is at normal condition wool is absorb 12 to 15%.
- Specific gravity: 1.30 gm per cm3.
- Luster: Wool fiber where is considerable in lusture certain wool is lustures.
- Color: Color of wool can be white to black to brown generally Austria full are white and American wool are light olive color.
- Electrical properties: Police a bad conductor of electricity.
- Thermal properties when heated in dry air beyond 100oC it begins to feel harsh and brittle and it scotch at about 200oC
Chemical properties of wool:
- Effect of acid: Concentrated HCL and H2SO4 hydrolyzed wool and color of wool changes from yellow to deep yellow. Nitric acid quickly reacts with wool evolving heat react is exothermic wool fiber is quickly dissolved in strong nitric acid.
- Effect of alkali: 5 % NaOH 8 ball completely dissolved in wool in 2 minutes.
- Effect of oxidizing agent: Strong solution of H2SO4 potential per-magnet potential chromate damage old depending upon the temperature of concentration and pH.
- Effect of reducing agent: Reducing agent attack keratin group at its salt link and this damages wool.
- Felting of wool: Felting is a process in which scales present in wool are partially removed as the scales in tangle with each other and giving remands shrinkage of fabric which is desirable which process in which building is given is called as milling during milling considerable shrinkage take place which avoids shrinkage during for the use of wool.
Uses of wool:
Wool fabric is used for all kinds of clothing, couch covers, bedspreads, toilet covers, tablecloths and more. Boots, Carpet, Blankets, Sweaters, Coats, and Seat covers etc.
2. Silk Fiber
Silk is also one of the most important protein fibers of insect origin, being produced as a fine filament of long length from the body fluid of silkworm (Bombyx Mori). The silkworms eat only the leaves of mulberry tree. Silk is a polypeptide, formed from four different amino acids. Silk fibers are relatively stiff and show good to excellent recovery from deformation depending on the temperature and humidity conditions. These fibers exhibit favorable heat-insulating properties but owing to their moderate electrical resistivity, they tend to build up static charge.
Varieties of silk:
- Domestic Silk – Mulberry
- Wild Silk – Eri, Muga, Tussar
Production of domesticated silk:
- Suitable climate for growth of silk worm and plantation of mulberry trees
- Intensive care and cocoon for better quality Silk filament.
Production of silk filament consists of,
- Sericulture that is production of cocoon.
- Reeling production of raw silk.
Life cycle of silk worm:
1) The eggs are hatched by Silk moth incubating rooms at 20 to 25oC the female moth lays about 500 eggs.
2) When the mulberry trees start budding the egg sheets are placed in an incubating room at around 25 to 27oC.
3) Incubation time for the egg is 8 to 10 days
4) After which caterpillar is hatched.
5) After incubation period the caterpillar wait about 5 mg and 2-3 mm long.
6) The worm eats mulberry leaves for 20 to 30 days.
7) The worm increases inside and weight with remarkable each worm weight 2-5 grams and measure 5-9 CM.
8) When the growth of silk is completed and stops eating its color changes from greenish white to cream white color it starts searching for something which it can secret the fibrolite that is formation of cocoon at this time silkworm are Oxford to special trays after meaning of filament it changes caterpillar to pupa. Pupa changes into beautiful moth after two days by cutting cocoon.
Production of raw silk:
- Drying cocoon are alive steaming by this method pupa is killed cocoon is stored
- Sorting: Cocoon are sorted according to the shape, weight of cocoon, shell weigh, filament length, filament diameter.
- Cooking: Cocoons are for their softened or cooked by soft water.
- Reeling: After boiling the cocoon the main process beginning reeling is the process continues filament is extracted from the cocoon without break.
Chemical composition of silk:
Silk consists 2 portion
Fibroin of fiber is coated with sericin of silk,
The fibroin which is main part of silk is made up of serious of different amino acids. The structure is mainly a polypeptide structure these are 11amino acids present in silk.
You may also like: Different Methods of Degumming of Silk
Sericin also contains various amino acid fibroin,
- Amide link
- Salt links
- H- Bonding
Physical properties of silk:
- Length Denier: Silk is extruded by the silk worm in the form of a double filament summited by gum. Silk is a longest natural fiber the length is around 1000meter for an unbroken filament the diameter is around 0.013mm – 0.08mm the denier is 3.3 is the row state and 1- in the boiled
- Color: The color of silk fiber could be yellow, brown, green or grey.
- Tensile Strength: Cotton is a strong fiber.
- Elongation at break: 20 -25% at break.
- Elastic Recovery: Not so good.
- Specific Gravity: Specific gravity is 1.25 to 1.34.
Chemical properties of silk:
- Action of Heat: Silk can be heated 140°. Without danger of decomposition.
- Action of Sunlight: Silk is attacked by the ultraviolet rays of sun. Silk is move quickly injured than unweighted silk.
- Silk Action of Water: Silk highly absorbing fiber get easily wetted which results swelling.
- Action of acids: Silk readily absorbed in dilute acid which increases its Luster strong sulfuric acid silk swells up and gives a gelatin mass. Silk is soluble in strong HCL when Silk is treated with 90% HCL it swells contracts and become gelatins’.
- Action of Alkalis: Silk is less sensitive to dilute alkalis but if silk is treated with strong alkalis in heat condition silk dissolve.
It is used in sewing thread for high quality articles. Particularly silk apparel, and in a range of household textiles, including upholstery, wall coverings and rugs and carpets. It is also being used as surgical sutures (below) – silk does not cause inflammatory reactions and is absorbed or degraded after wounds heal.
Other promising medical uses are as biodegradable microtones for repair of blood vessels, and as molded inserts for bone, cartilage and teeth reconstruction.
3. Vicuna Fiber
Vicuna is thought to be more delicate and small than Guanaco. Guanaco’s improved advanced incisor roots are a key distinguishing feature of its morphology. The vicuna’s long, furry coat is slightly brown on the back, with white and long hair on the neck and chest. The ears are slightly longer and the head is slightly shorter than the guanaco. The head and body lengths vary between 1.45 and 1.60 metres. Shoulder height should be between 75 and 85 cm. It weighs between 35 and 65 kilogrammes.
Wool is popular for its warmth and is used to decorate homes in the form of socks, sweaters, accessories, shawls, coats and suits, blankets, and throwing. Tiny fibers in a hollow, air-filled system give it its properties. It connects them and traps the insulating air between them. With a diameter of 12 metres, Vicuna has some of the best fibers in the world. Cashmere goat fibers are 14 to 19 metres long, Angora rabbit fibers are 8 to 12 metres long, and shahtoosh from Tibetan antelope or chiru is 9 to 12 metres long.
Properties of vicuna fiber:
Vicuna fiber properties include the fact that it is a hair fiber.
- This fiber is 35 mm in length.
- This fiber has a diameter of 6-10 micrometers. This fiber has a micronaire value of 12-14.
- It is also the most expensive fiber used in suitings.
- This fiber’s natural color is orange-brown.
- It is the most delicate and soft fiber.
- It comes in a variety of different colors in nature. The fiber can be mixed in an infinite number of ways to create a wide range of natural colors. It’s also a great color taker.
- The fibers obtained from al Vicuna are exceptionally strong and durable.
Chemical composition of vicuna fiber:
- Keratin ——–> 33%
- Dirt ———–> 26%
- Suint ———-> 28%
- Fat ————> 12%
- Mineral matter –> 1%
Application of vicuna fiber:
Vicuna wool is suitable for clothing (socks, sweaters, accessories, shawls, coats, and suits) as well as home decor (such as blankets and throws). A scarf will set you back around $1500, while a man’s coat will set you back up to $20,000.
4. Casein Fiber
Casein protein fibers that have been regenerated. Antonio Ferretti, an Italian chemist, developed a successful method for turning casein into fibers in the early 1930s. It is also called milk fiber. Casein is processed with formaldehyde or Benz aldehyde and metal salts, then spun into long, silk-like fibers using spinnerets. Casein fibers are softer and smoother than Wool and have a lower sulphur content. They are not susceptible to moths, but bacteria can degrade them. Casein fibers are typically white in color. They take dyes well but aren’t very washable. In fabrics, carpets, and hat felts, casein fibers are frequently blended with wool. Because casein fibers were weak when wet and susceptible to microbiological growths, Lanital and other regenerated protein fibers were replaced by other synthetic fibers.
Physical and chemical properties of casein fiber:
- Tenacity, dry: 9.7–8.0 N/tex (1.1–0.9 g/den)
- Elongation: 60–70%
- Specific gravity: 1.3
- Effect of heat: Turns yellow if heated at 100°C itself for long time, at 150°C it decomposes.
- Moisture regain: 14%
- Effect of sunlight: Very little, like wool.
- Effect of acid: Weak acid – no effect. Strong mineral acid – decomposes.
- Effect of alkali: Sensitive to alkali. Sodium bicarbonate and disodium hydrogen phosphate have little effect. Strong alkali disintegrates.
Applications of casein fiber:
- Ladies outerwear
- Children’s garments
- Eye mask
- Socks and hats
- Home textiles
- Automobile industry
- Medical technology
- Thermal insulated seat covers
- Hygienic diaphragms
5. Zein Fiber
Corn and maize protein fibers that have been regenerated. Vicara, a brand of zein fibers, was sold commercially from 1948 to 1957. After the oil was extracted, they were made with crushed corn and maize meal. After being dissolved in an alkali bath, the meal is forced through spinnerets to form fine fibrils that are then hardened with Formaldehyde. Zein fiber fabric is soft, tough, and strong, with the warmth of wool. It can withstand mildew, insects, sunlight, and temperatures up to 140oC. Vicara was frequently combined with cotton, wool, or rayon. Suits, sweaters, blankets, and pile fabrics were all made with it.
Zein fiber physical and chemical properties:
- In hot alkaline solutions soluble.
- Water, dilute acids, and most organic solvents are insoluble.
- Fibers have a circular cross section and are smooth.
- Tenacity = 1.2 g/denier (dry); 0.65 g/denier (wet)
- 25-35 percent elongation (wet); 30-45 percent elongation (dry)
- Moisture re-absorption = 10%
- 185°C melting point
- 1.25 density
Applications of zein fiber:
- In the field of textiles, Zein fiber fabric is soft, tough, and strong, with the warmth of wool.
- It can withstand mildew, insects, sunlight, and temperatures up to 140oC.
- Vicara was frequently combined with cotton, wool, or rayon. Suits, sweaters, blankets, and pile fabrics were all made with it.
- Zein has traditionally been used in the production of a wide range of commercial products, including paper cup coatings, soda bottle cap linings, clothing fabric, buttons, adhesives, coatings, and binders.
6. Alpaca Fiber
Alpaca fiber is soft, luxurious, and strong, with a variety of natural colors. Alpaca fiber is a unique fiber that comes in a wide range of colors. It is five times as warm as sheep wool fiber and five times as long-lasting. It’s also non-greasy and free of lanolin and oils. Because the fibers contain microscopic air pockets, they are light and have a high thermal capacity. Alpaca clothing is made from alpaca fiber, which is both warm and comfortable. It is warmer than wool and hypoallergenic because it lacks lanolin, which is found in wool and has been linked to allergies and irritation in some people. Alpaca clothing is the best choice if you want to stay warm while also being comfortable. Alpaca clothing is your ideal winter wear because it is made of alpaca fiber, which is warmer than wool but much lighter.
Uses of alpaca fiber:
Alpaca fiber is used in a variety of products, including bedding, hats, mitts, scarves, gloves, and jumpers. Alpaca fiber can also be used to make rugs and toys. Sweaters are the most popular.
7. Angora Fiber
Angora rabbits were not commonly used for wool production at the time. Instead, they were kept as pets, frequently by children who were enamoured with their voluminous and fluffy coats. The first records of large-scale Angora wool production in the United States date from the early twentieth century. Angora wool scarves, sweaters, and other items were quickly produced by American entrepreneurs who saw it as more than just a decorative fiber. Angora rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are bred solely for their fine, soft hair, as opposed to other breeds that are bred for meat and fur. Below is a picture of an Angora rabbit. China is the world’s leading producer, with individual farmers raising rabbits in a highly intensive small-scale factory farm system. France produces a large amount, while Eastern Europe and South America produce smaller amounts.
Uses of angora fiber:
Rabbit hair is primarily used for knitting, and it is usually blended with other fibers, primarily wool, and spun using the woolen system. Fashion has a big influence on its annual consumption, which fluctuates between 5000 and 6000 tones. The angora wool is commonly used to make scarfs, sweaters, and suits, felt, and knitting yarn.
8. Camel Fiber
The Caelidae grey family includes the Camelus. Almost all camelhair is produced by the two-humped Bactrian camel, which is found primarily in Mongolia and Northern China, near the Gobi desert, where it feeds on bitter vegetation rejected by other species, as shown below. It has a strong preference for salt and will drink from salt lakes and brackish water. The camel, like other animals that produce textile fibers, grows two types of hair: an outer protective coat of coarse (guard) hair and an insulating undercoat of fine hair or down, with the notable exceptions of sheep, alpaca, and the Angora goat. The down produced by camels living in hotter desert areas is coarser and sparser than that produced by camels living in cooler climates. Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, New Zealand, and Australia all produce some camelhair. People and goods are transported by Bactrian camels, which are also used for sport and as a source of textile fibers.
Uses of camel fiber:
In Italy, a market for baby camel hair as a substitute for cashmere in knitted garments is developing, but knitwear represents a very small portion of the total market. Guard hairs are used for ropes, tentings, carpet backing, bedding, and heavy outer garments in the fiber industry. The nomadic peoples of Central Asia use felted outer hair to make their traditional tents and outer garments.
9. Mohair Fiber
Mohair is a long, lustrous, strong, resilient, and long-lasting fiber. It absorbs and retains moisture in the same way that wool does, and it has a good affinity for dyestuffs, but it is more chemically sensitive. When exposed to heat, sunlight, moth larvae, and ageing, it behaves similarly to wool. Mohair takes longer to felt than wool due to its scale structure. Mohair is just as warm as wool, but it’s much lighter, making it ideal for travel. Mohair is also appealing because of its warmth, durability, and aesthetic appeal. As a result, mohair has been used to make garments for kings, sultans, and even as part of the biblical tabernacle.
Uses of mohair fiber:
Scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks, and home furnishings are all made of mohair. Mohair fiber is also used as a fur substitute in carpets, wall fabrics, craft yarns, and a variety of other fabrics. Because its texture resembles fine human hair, mohair is often used in making high-grade doll wigs.
10. Azlon Fiber
Azlon is the generic name for a manufactured fiber whose fiber-forming substance is made up of any naturally occurring proteins that have been regenerated. Methods for regenerating protein had been developed by the turn of the century, but they produced a hard, brittle material. Antonio Ferretti, an Italian chemist, did not develop a successful method for producing regenerated protein fibers until the 1930s. Lanital was first made available in 1936. Peanuts, corn, Zein, cottonseeds, and casein were used to make Azlon fibers. For weaving, the fibers were frequently mixed with Wool, Cotton, or synthetics. Azlon fabrics were soft, lustrous, and had a good hand.
Uses of azlon fiber:
Azlon and Azlon hybrid fibers are great for moisture-wicking, antistatic, and UV-blocking apparel. It has a silky, luxurious texture and could be used for high-end clothing and athletic wear. Because eco-friendly, biodegradable, and sustainable fibers are becoming more popular, Azlon and other fibers made from renewable raw materials will most likely increase in production and demand in the coming years.
11. Llama Fiber
Llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas are South American camelids that are native to the Andean mountains. Llamas and alpacas were domesticated in the Andes over 5,000 years ago. In the annals of world animal husbandry, the Inca llama herd management rules and regulations are among the best. On “quipu,” a ledger made of knotted strings, their massive llama and alpaca flocks were thoroughly classified for uniformity in age, and color.
Uses of Llama fiber:
Bolivia, the leading producer, has very few statistics available. Llama fiber is used in knitwear and outerwear, both alone and in blends. Ropes, braids, carpets, and some coarse clothing are made with guard hairs.
12. Qiviut Fiber
A smidgeon of qiviut wool The muskox’s coat is made up of two layers, with qiviut referring to the soft underwool beneath the longer outer wool. Each spring, the muskox sheds this layer of wool. During the moult, qiviut is plucked from the muskox’s coat or gathered from objects the animals have brushed against; unlike sheep, the muskox are not sheared. Much of the commercially available qiviut comes from Canada, where it is harvested from muskoxen pelts following hunts. In Alaska, qiviut is harvested from farmed animals or collected during the moult from the wild.
Uses of qiviut fiber:
It’s most popular for hats and scarves, and it’s one of the softest and warmest wools available. It’s pricey; a high-quality knitted scarf can cost more than $300 US,, but with proper care, it can last for over 20 years.
13. Cashmere Fiber
Cashmere is a wavy, opaque fiber with a thickness of 11-18 microns and is 10 times lighter and warmer than wool (Merinos, the best quality sheep’s wool, for example, is usually over 24 microns thick, although in recent years these values have been greatly improved by genetic selection to under 19,5 in some herds). It can be any color, from pure white to near-black, with all the beautiful, natural shades in between, just like the ‘guard’ hair that surrounds and protects it. The cashmere industry pays more for white Cashmere because it can be dyed pastel colors, but on our farm, we choose a variety of natural colors – cream, hazelnut, brown, grey, charcoal – to be used undyed in our hand-woven products. It makes no difference whether the goat has long or short “guard hair”; what matters is the quality and quantity of the undercoat it is bred to produce.
Uses of cashmere fiber:
Cashmere is used to make accessories such as gloves, scarves and shawls.
- It is used in apparel like sweaters, socks, blazers, coats, jackets and underwear.
- Coarser cashmere is used for rugs and carpets, bedding.
- Camping and Sports Equipment.
- Silk, Mohair, Cashmere and Other Luxury Fibers Edited by Robert R Franck
- Handbook of Natural fibers, Volume 1: Types, Properties and Factors Affecting Breeding and Cultivation Edited by Ryszard M. Kozłowski
- The Chemistry of Textile fibers by R. H. Wardman and R. R. Mather
- Handbook of Textile fibers: Natural fibers by J. Gordon Cook
- Introduction to Textile fibers by V. Sreenivasa Murthy
- mfa.org/wiki/Casein fiber
You may also like:
- Textile Fibers and Their Classification
- Different Types of Man Made Fibers with Their Application
- An Overview of Glass Fibre
- Nylon: The First Synthetic Fiber
- Problems of Man-made Fibers & Methods of Rectification
- Acrylic Fiber: Properties, Production Flowchart and Application
- Kevlar Fiber: Types, Properties, Manufacturing Process and Applications
- Aramid Fibers: Types, Properties, Manufacturing Process and Applications
- High Performance Polyethylene Fibers – An Overview
- Recent Developments in High Performance Fibers
- Sisal Fiber and Its Properties, Structure, Processing and Uses
- Date Palm Fiber: Properties, Chemical Treatments & Applications
- Coconut or Coir Fiber: Properties, Manufacturing Process and Applications
- Application of Pineapple Leaf Fibre in Automotive Industry
- Banana Fiber: Properties, Manufacturing Process and Applications
- What is Coir Fiber? | Uses of Coir Fiber
- Corn Fiber: Properties, Manufacturing, Benefits and Uses
- Ramie Fiber | Properties of Ramie Fiber | Uses of Ramie Fiber
Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.