Bamboo Fiber - A Brief Analysis
The bamboo fiber
from the starchy pulp of bamboo plants. This textile fiber is fabricated from natural bamboo
and other additives. In fact, bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which is
produced from bamboo pulp, processed from bamboo culms. It looks like cotton in its
un-spun form. Many bamboo fiber manufacturers apply extensive bleaching processes to
turn the color of bamboo fiber into white. However, the companies engaged in producing
organic bamboo fabric leave the bamboo fiber unbleached. Bamboo fiber is thinner
as compared to hair and has a round and smooth surface which makes it abrasion proof.
Extraction of Bamboo Fiber
Two types of processing are done to obtain bamboo fibers- Mechanical Processing and Chemical Processing. However, in both the processes, the raw bamboo has to be split to get bamboo strips. After that, bamboo fiber is extracted either through chemical or mechanical processing.
Chemical Processing :
It is basically hydrolysis alkalization. The crushed bamboo is "cooked"
with the help of Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) which is also known as caustic soda or lye into a form
of regenerated cellulose fiber. Hydrolysis alkalization is then done through carbon disulfide
combined with multi phase bleaching. Although chemical processing is not environmental friendly
but it is preferred by many manufacturers as it is a less time consuming process.
Mechanical Processing :
In this method, the crushed bamboo is treated with biological enzymes
This breaks the bamboo into a mushy mass
and individual fibers are then combed out. Although expensive, this process is eco friendly.
Characteristics of Bamboo Fiber
Bamboo fiber is naturally anti-bacterial, UV protective,
green & biodegradable, breathable & cool, strong, flexible, soft and has a luxurious shiny appearance.
Smooth, Soft and Luxurious Feel:
Bamboo fiber can be softer even than
when spun into yarn
It has a basic round surface which makes it very smooth and to sit perfectly next to the skin.
Good Absorption Ability:
Bamboo fiber absorbs and evaporates sweat very
quickly. It's ultimate breathability keeps the wearer comfortable and dry for a very
longer period. It is 3-4 times more absorbent than cotton fabrics
Temperature Adaptability: Fabrics
made from bamboo
fiber are highly breathable in hot weather and also keep the wearer warmer in cold
season. Bamboo is naturally cool to the touch. The cross-section of the bamboo fiber
is filled with various micro-gaps and micro-holes leading to much better moisture
absorption and ventilation. It is also very warm in cold weather, because of the
same micro structure as the warm air gets trapped next to the skin.
Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and anti-static.
Bamboo has a unique anti-bacteria and bacteriostasis bio-agent named "bamboo kun" which
bonds tightly with bamboo cellulose molecules during the normal process of bamboo
fiber growth. This feature gets retained in bamboo fabrics too. Many tests have been
conducted whose results show over 70% death rate after bacteria was incubated on bamboo
fiber fabric. Tests by the Japanese Textile Inspection Association shows that, even
after fifty washes, bamboo fabric still possessed these properties. It makes bamboo
fabrics healthier, germ free and odor free.
Applications of Bamboo Fiber
After gaining popularity as a green fiber, bamboo has found place in significant fashion circles.
However, questions are often raised due to textile
applied to bamboo for making them usable as fibers for clothing and other textile products
The inherent anti fungal and antibacterial properties of bamboo fabrics make
it suitable for such clothing as underwears
It is especially preferred for making summer clothing as it gives protection against UV rays and for being naturally cool.
The softness, sheen and drapabaility of bamboo fabric make it suitable for fashion clothing
it has good absorption and is breathable, it can be used in making any type of
garments especially sports wear
and inner wear
In fact, some manufacturers use a blend of 4% Lycra with bamboo to make sportswear.
The softness of bamboo yarn
also makes it ideal for making infant wear.
Home Furnishings Fabrics:
Bamboo fabric has also come to occupy important place in manufacturing of home furnishings
due its many qualities including, softness, strength, & durability among others. It is used in making cushion covers
, table linen
, bed linen
, beddings and pillow
, kitchen linen
etc. Wallpapers and curtains made from bamboo fabric can absorb ultraviolet radiation very well. Upholstery fabrics are usually made with bamboo blends.
Bamboo fabric is increasingly being used in making bathroom furnishings
. Bamboo bath towels
and bath robes
have soft and comfortable feel and excellent moisture absorption capability. The natural antibiotic property provides hygienic conditions as well as prevents bad odor. They are also suitable for making bath mats
due to good absorbency.
Non woven fabrics:
Bamboo pulp is also used for making non woven fabrics that are then used in making hygiene products such as sanitary napkin, masks, mattress
, absorbent pads, food-packing bags. Again, they are preferred for such products due to anti-bacteria and absorption properties.
Medical and Hygienic Clothing & Products:
Apart from non wovens, bamboo fabric itself is also used in the production of such items as textiles for surgical practices including masks, bandage, gowns etc. apart from linens, towels and drapes in hospitals.
Drawbacks of Bamboo Yarn
Bamboo textiles can be called a mixed bag from the ecological point of view. While the crop gets high marks environmentally, its processing into fabric fetches negative marks. Strong solvents are used to make bamboo fibers suitable for any textile use. These solvents affect the environment as well as the health of processing-plant workers. However, recently developed processes, such as closed-loop systems for processing of Lyocell and Tencel fabrics
, use safer solvents such as acetic acid. These may also be used more frequently for organically-processed bamboo textiles. However, this depends upon how much the consumer is ready to pay for, as these processes involve huge expenditure. Apart from the chemicals destroying the natural advantages of bamboo fibers, the other drawback of bamboo fabric is that it shrinks a slightly higher than cotton.
With its few disadvantages, bamboo is still beneficial fiber, more so if processed mechanically. Its yield is 10 times that of cotton, without using any fertilizers or pesticides. Additionally, even organic cotton
uses a huge amount of water for growing, whereas bamboo grows without any irrigation, often on hill slopes where nothing else can be grown. It really can give an option for sustainable development for those engaged in producing bamboo and manufacturing bamboo textiles and other products.