It's hard to imagine that the entire bamboo plant - including both its leaves and tall, woody stalks, can be transformed into soft, silky fabric.
Among the 1,250 species of bamboo, 1,000 are found in the tropics. China has the highest number of bamboo species and is the largest bamboo-producing country in the world. Bamboo is an amazing, fast-growing crop that can be easily grown organically without damaging the environment.
It is used for a wide variety of commercial uses, including:
- Food: its shoots are edible and widely exported
- Construction: the wood is used in construction as a substitute for timber
- Decoration: the wood is crafted into items that are used both outdoors and indoors as decoration
- Clothing: the fibers are processed to create a silky-soft fabric
Bamboo intended for the fabric market is harvested at about 4-5 years after planting. The fabric itself has the feeling of silk, but is much more affordable. It is also simpler to care for, as it is wrinkle-resistant and dries quickly. It also has natural anti-bacterial and SPF components, making it an excellent choice for baby clothes.
There are two kinds of bamboo fibers: the degummed natural bamboo fiber and the regenerated bamboo fiber. The degummed natural bamboo fiber is a natural extract without any chemical additive. This kind of fiber is easily identified through a fiber analysis and is claimed to be a non-cotton vegetable fiber. The regenerated bamboo fiber is produced through chemical processes of its pulp and pectin and spun into a fiber, resulting in a wrinkle-free fiber similar to rayon or modal. A regenerated bamboo fiber is classified as a man-made fiber.
Regenerated fibers are processed either mechanically or chemically.
In mechanical processing, the woody parts of the bamboo plant are crushed and its natural enzymes are used to produce a mushy mass where fibers are combed out and spun into a yarn. The product is a bamboo fabric or bamboo linen. This process is eco-friendly and is similar to the manufacture of linen fabric from flax and hemp.
This is the most common process for regenerated bamboo fiber. This involves "cooking" the fiber with chemicals to create a form of regenerated cellulose fiber that can be turned into thread that can be woven into fabrics. All the parts of the bamboo trunk and its leaves are used for making a bamboo fabric. The plant undergoes the process of extraction and crushing in a mixture of chemicals and is converted into threads.
The most environmentally-friendly manner in which to process bamboo fiber is the Lyocell process, which has been praised for being more sustainable than other commonly-used chemical process. Lyocell shares many properties with other cellulosic fibers such as cotton, linen, ramie and rayon. The N- methylmorpholine-N-oxide chemicals used in the Lyocell process are non-toxic and are safer for humans. During production, 99.5% of the chemicals are captured in a closed-loop container and are recyclable. Minimal amounts of the chemicals are released to the atmosphere, waste water and products.
New technology is currently being developed to add another option to bamboo processing methods called Greenyarn™, which involves using chemicals to create nano particles of bamboo charcoal that are then woven into fabrics. There is limited literature available to support the actual and entire process using this technology.
The most commonly-used chemical process involves the use of carbon disulfide. In this process, the bamboo is crushed and the moisture content of the bamboo material is set to be more than 65%. The output forms alkali cellulose which is sulfurized through the carbon disulfide chemical added to it. This process turns the cellulose into gel which is then diluted with sodium hydroxide. This produces a viscose solution that is passed through nozzles and into another chemical solution where it hardens and is reconverted into thread and spun into fabric.
Copyright (c) 2008 Virginia Ginsburg
Article Source: http://www.abcarticledirectory.com
Virginia Ginsburg writes about sustainable products, green living, and her quest for a socially-conscious lifestyle. She is founder of Green Baby Gifts (www.greenbabygiftsonline.com), which offers beautifully-wrapped baby gifts made of bamboo fiber and packaged in completely recycled and recyclable packaging.
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