Natural vs Synthetic Fibers
Fibres are materials like unit threads, or more correctly, like hair which has a continuous filamentous nature. These can be spun into stronger threads and ropes or can be made into other structures such as sheets or paper by tangling them together using different techniques. Furthermore, these threads and sheets can be used in the production of various complex materials such as fabrics. Depending on the origin, fibres can be categorized into two main categories; namely, natural and synthetic fibres. Natural fibres are taken from plants and animals, whereas synthetics are usually entirely or at least partly man-made.
More on Natural Fibres
Natural fibres are mainly used in the production of fabrics due to the comfort of the materials. Some commonly known examples include; cotton, silk and wool. But other natural fibres are used in various industries, to produce ropes, aerofoils, bags, brushes etc. Coconut (coir) fibre, jute, bamboo and vine are some of the examples. The usage of each different type of fibre depends on its own characteristics such as strength, breathability etc. As mentioned above, natural fibres can come from both animals and plants, where plant fibres have a more cellulose nature and the animal fibres have a protein nature. Plant fibres are usually collected from various parts of the plant such as fruits, leaves, seeds, stalks, straws etc. Fibres from animals are mainly collected from fibre secreting glands (silk from the silk worm), animal hair (wool from sheep, cashmere from goats) and from birds’ feathers.
The discovery of synthetic fibres decreased the popularity of natural fibres because of their better properties and durability. However, due to the increase in price of oil and petroleum products and also due to the increasing environment concerns, the need to use natural fibres has returned. The main disadvantage of using natural fibre is that obtaining fibre is quite expensive. However, the ease of dying, high demand in human wear and being environment friendly can be seen as advantages of natural fibres over the synthetics.
More on Synthetic Fibres
Synthetic fibres are widely used in many industries, even for human wear. Synthetic fibres quickly gained popularity due to its desirable properties over natural fibres especially when it comes to strength and durability. The main advantage of using synthetic fibres is that it’s quite cheap when compared to natural fibres and hence reduces the production costs massively. These fibres are generally resistant to flame and most chemicals.
The chemical purity of synthetic fibres can be assured well above natural fibres as it does not contain dust and other undesired particles as in the case of natural fibres. These fibres are almost entirely man made using petrochemical products, and are forced through fibre forming material called spinnerets. Hence the filaments are all artificially made. Therefore, it is possible to change the chemical structure of the fibre material if required to give it better properties, which is not possible when using natural fibres. Compared to natural fibres, synthetics are also easy to wash and maintain. However, it is difficult to colour synthetic fibres with dyes as the absorption is not as fast and easy as with the natural fibres. Some other major disadvantages of using synthetic fibres are its heat sensitivity and not being environmentally friendly.
Some commonly used synthetic fibres include; Nylon, Polyester, Acrylic, Rayon (artificial silk) etc.
What is the difference between Natural Fibres and Synthetic Fibres?
• Natural fibres are derived from plants and animals, whereas synthetic fibres are almost entirely man made.
• Fabrics made of natural fibres are generally more comfortable than synthetic ones.
• Natural fibres are expensive compared to synthetic fibres.
• In synthetic fibres, spinnerets are used to produce the filaments whereas, in natural fibres, it is naturally made.
• Natural fibres have limited usage when compared to synthetic fibres.
• Natural fibres are biodegradable hence environmentally friendly, unlike synthetic fibres.